Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend (top) and Jona Bechtolt of Yacht (bottom). Photos by David Topping
Bands like Vampire Weekend and Yacht aren’t supposed to work together live. In fact, they’re not really supposed to work at all.
Vampire Weekend‘s music is a mix of African percussion, collegiate lyrics, and peppy indie rock. The strange mix is epitomized in a song like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”: the beat is Kwassa Kwassa, a Congolese dance rhythm; the lyrics are about well-dressed pretty college girls; and the song’s chorus climaxes with the word “do” held as a one-note falsetto for a good ten seconds. The band even acknowledges its strange mix in the song, with lead singer Ezra Koenig conceding, “this feels so unnatural / Peter Gabriel too.” Unnatural or not, the four-man band from New York has a knack for uniting those amazing Afrobeats with equally amazing vocal, guitar, bass, and piano parts in equal measure to create something infectious, warm, and likeable that sounds both familiar and entirely new.
Yacht, on the other hand, is Jona Bechtolt, a one-man-band who has absolutely nothing in common with Vampire Weekend. His songs are manic; his beats and backing tracks, played entirely through his laptop, are fat, inorganic, and heavy; his lyrics range from direct cribbings of Jim O’Rourke’s “Prelude To 110 Or 220/Women Of The World” (“women of the world take over, because if you don’t the world will come to an end, and it won’t take long?”) to the much more earnest and self-conscious (“why is there a picture of a penis on your fridge? It makes me feel awkward”).
And somehow, it all worked and worked together on Saturday night at Sneaky Dee’s. Opening, Vampire Weekend were tighter than any band as green as them should be live, managing to improve on the sound on their superb debut E.P., and––most impressively––nailing that amazing falsetto in “Cape Cod.” When Yacht followed, it only took two songs to get the crowd from confused to ecstatic. Bechtolt has figured out that the trick to showmanship is simple: do not stop dancing. His on-stage setup involves a laptop, a mic, some amps, and a lot of space in which to dance around, even though he regularly wades into the crowd. In the momentary breaks between songs and dancing, Bechtolt is still ridiculously comfortable as the centre of attention, earnestly asking the audience if there are any questions (“about anything, not just the music”), giving a shout-out to the sound guy because it’s a “shit job,” and telling the crowd that playing live in Toronto seven times is “not enough…not fucking enough.”
We came for Vampire Weekend, stayed for Yacht, but left for the closers, Dirty Projectors. The Projectors are a band you can admire for their skill whether or not you like them––a kind of Christina Aguilera for the indie set––but they couldn’t really match the excitement generated by Vampire Weekend and Yacht. A kind of disappointing end to an otherwise spectacular night, maybe, but two out of three ain’t bad.
All photos by David Topping. More are in the concert’s Flickr set.