The Upper West Side will meet Brooklyn when Vampire Weekend, some of Columbia University's most famous alumni, take the stage at Roseland Ballroom in New York for a special homecoming gig and livestream directed by actor, director and borough-dweller Steve Buscemi. The show kicks off the fourth year of the American Express Unstaged series and is set for April 28th, just a few weeks prior to the May 14th release of the band's album Modern Vampires of the City.
"Playing a hometown show is a really intense and great experience," bassist Chris Baio tells Rolling Stone. "We haven't played a full New York show in two-and-a-half years, so we're gonna be really well-rehearsed." He adds that the Roseland gig will feature about half of the tracks from the band's long-awaited third LP and that they are still working on tweaking them into a viable live format. "There's some new pitch-shifting stuff on 'Ya Hey,'" he notes. "My background vocals are an octave above what I'm singing so it sounds all shit-monkey, which is funny to hear back. . . We have this thing that fucks with [frontman] Ezra [Koenig's] voice in real-time, like on 'Diane Young' on the first chorus. It sounds really great and crazy live."
Plenty of prep time remains before the Roseland gig, including performances at both weekends of the Coachella Festival. In fact, the band has just begun hashing out the performance with Buscemi; along with rehearsals, they'll film some bonus documentary footage that will be released in the lead-up to the concert (which may explore a distant family tie between Buscemi and Baio).
"He really is a great director," Baio says of Buscemi, who attended one of the band's gigs at SXSW five years ago and whose son Lucian's band, Fiasco, opened for Vampire Weekend in New York in 2008. "Growing up, I was a huge Sopranos fan and one of my favorite episodes is 'The Pine Barrens,' which he directed. Also, I just realized this morning he directed the 'Leap Day' episode of 30 Rock last year; that's one of my favorites. I feel safe in his hands."
New York has always held a special place in Vampire Weekend's music, and Baio says Modern Vampires of the City deals more heavily with the city as a whole. "Our first record was heavily New England in reference, our second record was heavily California in reference and this record has the most New York references,” he explains. “I think there's a sense of geography and travel, and maybe coming-back-home closure in a way that you find in a trilogy."
For fans unable to make it to the Big Apple, the Roseland show will be streamed on YouTube, Vevo and the American Express Unstaged website.
Photo by Alex John Beck