With collars popped and sporting the breezy appeal of Old Spice models, Vampire Weekend played the sundown set on the main stage at Coachella on Sunday. In some ways the band, with its peppy instrumentalism and expert world-music riffs, represents the second coming of yacht rock.
The band has the allure of a Cape Cod summer. It’s easy to imagine these guys on a sailboat, taking off from Hyannis Port, drifting to picnics on shores unknown where waiters in crisp white cotton pants serve up a hot clam bake, complete with lobster tail and corn.
Still, on Sunday, hyper-literate songs like “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” cut through the illusion of pretense and held their own as solid pop rock with very danceable beats.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, L.A.'s own Father John Misty got down and dirty in the Gobi Tent, in many ways the polar opposite of the polished rock across the way.
Misty is the stage name of former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman, who has lately come into his own as a gifted songwriter and a virtuoso live performer. Tillman smoked onstage, his brown hair wild, his shirt constantly unbuttoning as he shook and twisted while singing the countrified rock tunes from his debut album, “Fear Fun.”
An elaborate psychedelic-style background was propped up behind the band, which includes relentless drummer Aaron Sperske (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Beachwood Sparks, Lillys). The band’s amps were draped in American flags, which silently commented on the backdrop’s images of a pre-Sept. 11 New York skyline beside pyramids, a burning church, a rainbow and a castle.
Political commentary remained largely in the background during the show, however, which was dominated by Tillman’s charisma, comic banter and fierce concentration.
“It’s funny, like 12 hours ago I was eating pizza, smoking weed and watching the Beatles anthology -- just hanging around in bed,” Tillman told the enthusiastic crowd before launching into a catchy song called “Now I’m Learning to Love the War.”
“Try not to think about the staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record,” Tillman sang. “All the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining. ... When it’s my time to go, I’m gonna leave things behind that won’t decompose.”
The band closed out the set with an extended version of its most popular tune, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.” During the song’s explosive breakdown the lights went wild and so did Tillman. He got on his knees, jumped up and then crouched down again with all the theatricality of a preacher in a Broadway musical. His shirt, which he had re-buttoned several times, popped open again.
The performance was electric, and it won"t be surprising to see Tillman on the Coachella main stage again in a few years.
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