While the masses flocked to Indio to scorch themselves at Coachella this weekend, I decided to die of heat exhaustion in another desert–Las Vegas. You see, all those festival bands have to kill time between weekends somehow, and what better way to skip up to Sin City for a show? It works out well for them and all of us who don't want to fork out the dough to go, well, get sunburned.
Thanks to the lovely people at The Cosmopolitan, I was able to stay in Vegas Friday and Saturday night on a writer's salary and catch Vampire Weekend and Yeah Yeah Yeahs in their transitional Coachella moments. The bands played at the hotel/casino's Blvd Pool (yes, this venue acts as a pool/lounge area for guests during the day, pretty awesome), giving their fans a much more intimate concert setting than being squished between thousands upon thousands of sweaty festival goers.
On Friday night, Vampire Weekend kicked off the…weekend with their calypso-inflected indie rock. Vegas natives, hotel guests and die hard VW fans surrounded the 4th story lounge/pool, some dipping their feet in the water in back, and others standing as close to the stage as they could get. After taking their sweet ass time with soundcheck, the band hit the stage to the gangsta sounds of DMX's "Ride or Die," officially making them the whitest white boy band ever (but in a kind of cute way). Without saying a word, the quartet jumped into "Cousins," and "White Sky," off 2010's Contra before delving into tracks off their self-titled 2008 debut. As they played "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," vocalist/guitarist Ezra Koenig properly strummed his guitar, still retaining that "preppy boy" look with a striped polo shirt and jeans. While other bands try to use glitz and glamor to attract fans, VW does quite the opposite. And it works. Koenig's collegiate swag makes the girls in the crowd scream his name.
Aside from selections off their two released albums, the East Coast indie rockers also treated their fans to four new songs off their upcoming album, Modern Vampires Of The City–the three released singles, "Diane Young," "Steps," and "Unbelievers," as well as a newer set list staple, the African-tinged, sample-driven, "Ya Hey." And from the sounds of these tunes, this record should be worth the wait.
On Saturday, the wind picked up, blowing everyone's drinks over at the pool. (What a waste of alcohol!) But enclosed by the towers of Planet Hollywood, Paris and Ballys, the weather was balmy and calm at Blvd Pool. Fresh off their Weekend One Coachella performance, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came out guns ablazin'. Karen O waltzed onstage wearing sequined sunglasses with only one lens, a red leather jacket with rhinestones and tassles with matching red jeans, a sparkling white tiger striped cape and one lime green leather fingerless glove. She looked amazing, and her charisma matched her outfit (as it always does).
The trio (four-piece live with David Pajo helping out on bass) began its set with a raging new track off its upcoming album, Mosquito, aptly titled, "Mosquito (Suck Your Blood)." Between roaring her lyrics, Karen O gulped water, tilted her head back, and spewed a fountain above herself. This was not the last time she became a human geyser during the set. They played a diverse range of songs off all three of their prior albums as well as their newest single, "Sacrilege," and by special request, "Art Star," off their 2001 self-titled EP.
Karen O rarely spoke in between songs, but when she did it was nothing but praise for her fan or bandmates, commenting that this was, no shit (her words, not mine), "the best Las Vegas show they had ever played." Though the focus was and always is on her, during "Turn Into," the eccentric front woman bowed in front of her friend and bandmate, Nick Zinner, raising her arms to the sky as he played the song's impressive guitar solo. "Mister Nick Zinner, everybody!" she exclaimed as he finished shredding.
As the band returned to the stage for its encore, Zinner toted a camera and took photos of the crowd as a synth warbled the riff of "Zero." Karen O jovially skipped onstage, adorned in a black leather jacket accessorized with studs spelling "KO" on the back. As soon as that song ended, Zinner began playing the fluttering riff of "Maps," and the crowd exploded. "Time for a Yeah Yeah Yeahs love song," Karen O squealed. "God, it's a beautiful night." The song was equally as beautiful, and when the singer ended by plunging the mic into her heart like a dagger, I think everyone in the crowd felt her energy. It was hard not to.