Vampire Weekend makes teen dreams come true at Red Rocks - Reverb

Live review: Vampire Weekend, Beach House and Dum Dum Girls @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig glides through a headlining set at Red Rocks on Friday night. Photo by Joe McCabe, denverpost.com/reverb

Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig glides through a headlining set at Red Rocks on Friday night. Photo by Joe McCabe, denverpost.com/reverb

A young crowd filled less than half of Red Rocks for an unorthodox triple-bill on Friday night.

L.A.’s Dum Dum Girls opened with a well-received half-hour set. Touring almost non-stop since the release of their Richard Gottehrer-produced debut “I Will Be,” DDG’s live show has grown confident and persuasive. The band rocked better than their past SXSW appearances and harder than their studio recordings.

The set featured songs that varied between slow, hazy, smoldering fuzz and knock-you-back, hooky, bubblegum powerpop songs about jail (“Jail La La”) or drugs (“Bhang Bhang, I’m A Burnout”).  DDG’s set showed they have the vocal chops (lead vocalist Dee Dee’s tenor and delivery along with the digital delay harmonies of the others) and musicianship (the rhythm section, especially) to justify the hype that they’ve received.

View a full photo gallery of Friday’s show!

The crowd grew throughout the evening.  Many came primarily for Vampire Weekend and more than a few took to talking over listening to Beach House or the aforementioned DDGs.  And it’s hard to be swept away to dreamland by Beach House’s minor-key wooziness with chuckleheads yakking behind.

Regardless, guitarist Alex Scally created machine gun bullets of sound, bending the strings like they were clay. Lead vocalist Victoria Legrand sang and played keyboards, seemingly conducting the band (augmented by two touring members on additional keyboard and percussion) via hand gestures and hair tousling.  Legrand’s weary, yet powerful vocals  — arguably the foundation of the band’s sound — helped create the right mood. Their 40-minute set stemmed mostly from this year’s “Teen Dream.”  Beach House was the “serious” band of the night and perhaps billing them before a dance band in an outdoor venue wasn’t the right choice.

Fans and critics seem to go back and forth on Vampire Weekend, and their set Friday night could have supported both sides. There were moments of brilliance. There is no disputing that the band has great chops live and a handful of eminently listenable songs. They were interspersed between weak slow songs and other efforts that sounded more like Sting or Jack Johnson on adderall. Inconsistent.

Alas, but what can a poor Ivy League boy do, ‘cept to sing for an Afro-Pop band? It’s been said before that VW is clearly influenced by “Graceland”-era Paul Simon, the “blackest” album some WASP types actually own other than “Thriller.” It’s not a crime to be a WASP; the Talking Heads were pretty WASPy and look what they accomplished.

Still you couldn’t help but think VW is nothing more than a band like Maps and Atlases, if cast by the producers of “Gossip Girl.” And didn’t the Strokes prove that well-connected, attractive people are capable of producing decent, if disposable indie music?

View a full photo gallery of Friday’s show!

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Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.

Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.