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“Hello Madison, let’s fuckin’ do it!” YACHT yelled in pseudo-battle cry to the crowd of indie kids and scenesters at the High Noon Saloon.
And Madison certainly did “it,” coming out in droves Friday night to witness the power tour of electronica solo act YACHT and Ivy League indie wunderkinds Vampire Weekend. Selling out weeks before both acts arrived in Madison, this show was not one to be missed.
Flinging himself mercilessly about the small stage to the manufactured beats pulsing from his MacBook Air, YACHT, known commonly as Jona Bechtolt, opened the sold-out show in unforgettable fashion. Bechtolt’s feet never ceased to move along with the bolts of energy emanating from the venue’s speakers, and the scene kids in the center of the dance floor followed suit as the musician’s lithe framed slithered through the audience as he chanted: “You can live anywhere you want.”
With his easy charisma and energized performance, YACHT made the audience forget he was only the opening act for Vampire Weekend. Quick footwork, a lament about his inability to grow a beard, and a supplementary music video for his hit “See a Penny (Pick It Up)” from his 2007 album I Believe in You. Your Magic is Real only furthered the crowd’s acceptance of Bechtolt’s quirky charm.
Yet no amount of energy or charisma could overshadow the excitement radiating from the crowd for Vampire Weekend, a band whose metamorphosis from average, everyday college students into Afro-rock indie band extraordinaire sky-rocketed even before the release of their self-titled album. The preponderance of blogs, word of mouth and a subsequent cover of Spin Magazine only increased their popularity as a band that can offer inventive tunes and achieve moderate mainstream success.
Dressed in button-up shirts and boating shoes, and looking very little the part of burgeoning rock stars, the quartet opened their set with their album opener “Mansard Roof.” Lead vocalist and guitarist Ezra Koenig’s voice cracked in all the right places and his choppy guitar riffs rang with the trueness of those on their album track. “Campus,” arguably Vampire Weekend’s best, most infectious track, followed in this same vein, with the beats from Chris Thomson’s drum set galloping on gloriously.
However, Vampire Weekend’s set was not without its problems, as moments of malaise brought the quality of instrumentation to a lower level. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” lost the glimmering keyboard riffs which brought the song its full impact, and “Bryn” all but fell apart as the percussion overshadowed the rest of the band’s instruments.
Yet, Vampire Weekend’s best moments during Friday’s performance weren’t when they stuck to proven formulas from their album or distractedly gazed into space, but when they returned the excitement permeating throughout the audience. Their performance of “Ladies of Cambridge,” a ska-infused non-album track, did just that, as Koenig mischievously sang: “When you left my room to go to the kitchen/ I imagined you were dead.”
However, the real highlight of the evening arrived with the quartet’s up-tempo performance of “A-Punk.” “You can do the twist,” offered Koenig before his calypso-esque guitar throttles introduced the song. But crowd members chose another mode of dance, instead jumping along with the beat and pumping their fists in the air as Koenig and bassist Chris Baio triumphantly chanted “Hey! Hey! Hey!” with the song’s final strains.
Despite its few bumps, Vampire Weekend’s performance at the High Noon Saloon Friday night confirmed the band’s label as one of the best acts as their swooping guitars and Afro-beat rhythms kept audiences dancing. But, with his booming bass and whimsical antics, Friday night also made many a Madisonian take note of YACHT as another great artist on the rise.