Archive for the ‘Vampire Weekend’ Category
This summer, I sang this a lot in the shower, especially the part that goes “All summer, drink water.” I don’t, enough.
The summer before Vampire Weekend’s first album was released, we read that they were playing a Sunday afternoon show with some other acts at a small bandshell by the East River. A friend of mine was instrumental in organizing the day’s lineup, and I called him that morning to see when Vampire Weekend came on, but our cell phone connection was crackly, and I misunderstood the time he gave me. We arrived just as the band was finishing their encore.
We did see Vampire Weekend play a few months later, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and we liked the show so much we wanted to see the band again. But by the time its debut album was released the following January, the quartet was playing larger New York venues, and tickets sold out within moments. I noticed that the next stop on their tour was at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, about an hour’s drive from my parents’ house. Maybe this show wouldn’t be too crowded, I thought. I imagined that the Vampire Weekend fan base was still mainly local, and that the hype wouldn’t have spread as far north as the Berkshires. So I hatched a plan that we would drive up to Williamstown on the Friday night of the show, and when it was over drive to my parents’, where we would spend the weekend.
We left New York in the late afternoon. We took the Taconic up north, and night came on, and we ate the sandwiches we had packed as we wound our way through the mountains on back highways. We used to drive through the Williams campus once or twice a year, when we would take my parents to the Clark Institute, a small, companionable museum near the college that has a modest collection of Impressionist paintings. I went to a university in a big city—our campus was divided by an expressway—and so I had become a little infatuated with this isolated school surrounded by hills and farmland, with its stately nineteenth-century buildings and trim lawns. When we arrived, though, we learned that the Vampire Weekend show, which was to have been in one of those stately buildings, had been relocated to a larger and very contemporary dining hall. There must have been a lot of excitement about the band building on campus.
I should say right here that at the time I was 39 years old. And so, despite all of my excitement and planning, I found myself somewhat embarrassed to be pressed between 19-year-olds in a college cafeteria, with its tables stacked and its condiment station pushed to one side. The room was hot, and there was no stage—the band was going to play at the same level as the audience—and when the show started I couldn’t see anything. I became grumpy pretty quickly, but we slipped out of the crowd and made our way to the back of the room, where there were fewer people and the sound was better. There were some heaters by the window that some students were standing on, so I stood on one too, and the view was good. I could see the band and also survey the crowd. A large group, mostly boys, pushed toward the front, crowding the area where the band played and making polite mosh-like motions. The rest of the students were scattered along the margins, chatting, texting friends who were on the way to the show or possibly just across the room. The whole crowd seemed hopped up on hormones, and the girls were doing little peacock dances and laughing and running around. Everyone was happy. I was happy. The band played through all of the songs on their album, plus the b-sides, with gusto. They were great, and I loved them; I still love them. I bought an “A-Punk” t-shirt on the way out. Did I mention that I was 39?
It was around midnight when we started the drive to my parents’ house. I had promised my mother that we wouldn’t take the Petersburg Pass, a direct route through the mountains back into New York State but possibly treacherous on a winter night. We went in a roundabout way, north to Bennington and west over flatter territory. The roads were deserted. The fields were white with snow, and our headlights lit up the tall trees on either side of the road. The world seemed to glow. When we pulled into my parents’ driveway, the lamp above the kitchen door was lit, and a sliver of light came through the curtains from the room beyond, where my mother was sitting up in her nightgown and slippers, waiting for us.
A few months later, my friend Kate told me that when one of your parents dies, it draws a before-and-after line in your life. I think of that night, and that drive to my parents’ house, as the last night of the before. Over the weekend my mother complained of some unfamiliar joint aches and numbness in her feet. It was the final weekend that I would see her living at home. Six weeks later, she was admitted to a local hospital, and a month after that, she died of a rare inflammatory disease that shut down the major organ systems in her body one by one.
I didn’t talk much about the music I listen to with my parents, but when I did, my mother remembered the names. “What’s an A-Punk?” she asked that weekend when she saw me sorting clothes in the laundry room. (I had to admit that I wasn’t sure.) I still have a message on my answering machine that she left us a few weeks after the Vampire Weekend concert. She was in severe pain—nerve damage was spreading throughout her legs—and her voice on the recording is gravelly. But she wanted to tell us that she had been watching television, and there had been an announcement that Vampire Weekend was going to be on Saturday Night Live. We might want to find out more about it, she said. Hope the day is treating you well. Take care.
After she died, I told a friend of mine about the message. He said that it was the coolest message in the history of moms and answering machines.