Vampire Weekend's Contra Blitz Begins: First Letterman, Then California, Then Barnes & Noble (For Free)

The media assault for Vampire Weekend's violently anticipated sophomore release Contra, explored favorably at length in this week's Voice, has officially begun. Last night, the yacht-core clean-shaves dropped a neat rendition of their Plinko-pop single "Cousins" onto Letterman (video above), for which drummer Chris Thomson removed his scruff, keys/strings dude Rostam Batmanglij pulled out some St. Mark's shades, and Dave momentarily lapsed on the record's actual release date. Next week, Vampire Weekend's "Special Intimate Album Release Show" takes place at the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles (according to last week's New Yorker, Contra apparently has a California theme); the following weekend, they embark on a three-day sold-out Manhattan-venue bender, respectively holding home-advantage court at the United Palace Theater (Sunday, January 17), Webster Hall (Monday, January 18), and the Bowery Ballroom (Tuesday, January 19). Then, just announced yesterday, Vampire Weekend will appear with Ghana-born author Kwame Dawes at the Union Square Barnes & Noble on Thursday, January 21 (for free!). Might be the best context to see this band, ever.

In one corner, there's Upstairs at the Square, Barnes and Noble's hallmark live-event series, a made-for-podcast "show where writers and music mix"--and as we've written before, they're heavily branded song-and-conversation panels that pop off with a schoolmarm's punctuality, traditionally matching "diverse" authors with the sort of NPR-lite singer-songwriters whose CDs might end up on indefinite repeat in the family van (Josh Rouse, Aimee Mann, Rachael Yamagata). (To be fair, more recently, the series has gotten a bit of a wild hair up its ass, inviting DIY gypsies Japanther last spring and confirming chant-punk doyenne Patti Smith to open this year's festivites on Tuesday, January 19--the latter a programming no-brainer, but still.)

In the other corner, there's Vampire Weekend, a band that does in fact drive people nuts, a hugely popular outfit (in every sense of the word) once regularly accused of presumptuous cultural theft, which some might say would be fitting for a setting a floor above a Starbucks. But one thing we can all agree upon is that Vampire Weekend are clean, largely inoffensive, unabashedly preppy, proudly literate, four boys grandma would like--more or less born to be guests of Barnes & Noble. What we can't all agree on: the band's intentions. So maybe, just maybe, when you've got Ezra and Rostam and Chris and Chris up there on the carpeted stage beside a man who won an Emmy for documenting HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, those intentions will be blown up in 96-point Times New Roman. Probably not, but one can always hope. In any event, it's free. [Earth Times (?)]

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