The Grammys got started early for Vampire Weekend last night in Los Angeles, where the eclectic rock quartet performed at an event celebrating the Grammy in the Schools program for teens. Beginning with an excited reading of "Diane Young," the band's eight-song set included selections from 2013's Modern Vampires of the City, which is up for Best Alternative Album this Sunday.
Their short set ended a night of music in the Grand Ballroom at the University of Southern California for a crowd mixed with fans, students, parents and donors to Grammy in the Schools. Although brief, there were plenty of highlights.
The band's early career-defining hit "A Punk" had them at full force, with sticky guitar jangling atop heaving organ, while "Ya Hey" was both pumped and melancholy. The crowd stood and clapped along to the anxious beat of the Modern Vampires' "Unbelievers" as singer Ezra Koenig strummed an acoustic guitar and "Cousins" (from 2010's Contra) featured their now trademark blend of frantic afro-pop and indie rock. "Hannah Hunt" capped off the night, with Koenig detailing a couple’s cross-country road trip slipping slowly off the rails while multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij tapped a loving piano melody.
The concert began with a smoldering jazz quartet, who were then joined at the front of the stage by eight vocalists for Bobby Troup’s R&B standard "Route 66," as recorded by the Manhattan Transfer. They were followed by a larger 18-piece band for Benny Carter's "Movin’ Uptown," each young musician playing like a seasoned pro, under their enthusiastic direction of Justin DiCioccio.
Between sets, Grammy Foundation education director David Sears (also the night's emcee), looked over at the musicians and just repeated in mock-disbelief, "High school ... high school," applauding a new generation of performer and some future Grammy nominees possibly among them.
Here is Vampire Weekend's set list: