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Pemberton Day 3: Vampire Weekend, Death Cab for Cutie Belt Out Literary Rock

July 28, 2008 9:20 AM ET

"Despite it being early, and you all being clear-headed and sober, we always ask people to dance to this one," Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig said to a small but enthusiastic crowd gathered for the first main-stage act on Pemberton's last day. The song was "A-Punk," and, partly due to a hosed-down, dust-free dance floor, the crowd happily obliged. A quick glance around even revealed a handmade cardboard sign declaring love for the preppy New Yorkers. Vampire Weekend seem to have adapted to life on the fast track, and their set was similarly assured, fast and fun. Sporting a Marty McFlyish denim jacket, Koenig succumbed to some overly wordy banter ("This is a song about the English language, which is, of course, only one language of many," he said about "Oxford Comma"). Still, Koenig's rakish charm inspired the clap-happy crowd, who belted out "Blake's got a new face!" when asked, despite hangovers and a cold night in the rain.

For more Pemberton Festival coverage, visit rocknrolldiary.com.

If Vampire Weekend's quick ascent is a sign of the future, then Death Cab for Cutie demonstrated how indie rock used to operate. It's easy to forget that Death Cab has been around for a while, until you see them unfold onto the stage comfortably, like an old sweatshirt. Gibbard's long hair and mutton chops made him resemble a youthful Neil Young, and gave his troubadour songs added gravity, especially newcomers like "The Remainder" and "I Will Possess Your Heart." The latter was served up with an extended, instrumental intro that guitarist Chris Walla and bassist Nick Harmer lobbed back and forth patiently until Gibbard stepped in. Closing on 2003's "Transatlanticism," Death Cab folded themselves back up and left the stage, showing the kids how brave it can sometimes be to leave a bit of silence and mystery in your wake.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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