Normally, most people develop a healthy liking for a band that stretches from their angst-ridden teenage years to when they’re married with children and no longer make have time to listen to music. In opposition, a select group of fans let their mild affection evolve from a weekend pastime to a deep-rooted infatuation that pervades every waking hour. These members of society have been somewhat derogatorily dubbed fangirls/fanboys.
I have been an unabashed Vampire Weekend fanboy since 2009. Step into my room and you will be hard-pressed to find a patch of wall that is not plastered with computer printouts, show posters, and album art. Browse through my record collection, and you’ll chance upon the givens — the self-titled debut, Contra, and soon-to-be-released Modern Vampires of The City (on white vinyl, natch) —along with some rare finds like their early singles “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” on yellow and white 7-inch vinyl, respectively. I can rap bar for bar with lead singer, Ezra Koenig, on all the tracks from his short-lived rap group, L’Homme Run. I’m even friends with Bryn on Facebook — yes, the namesake of track seven on their first record.
Forget the Beatles. Ezra, Rostam, Baio, and CT are my Fab Four. So when I heard that Ez and Rostam would be appearing on Much Music on March 25, I effectively retained as much of my graceful composure as a Jane Austen heroine. That is to say, none at all, but I managed to pull myself together long enough to email the event co-ordinator and reserve my seats.
After revelling in the news with some fellow V-Dubz fans, I praised my luck. Having been counting down the minutes until their show on May 16, I had been expecting to see them soon, but not “less-than-a-week” soon. The following days passed in a blur and I suddenly found myself in Toronto, Sharpie and boundless optimism in tow.
Each street corner was turned with the hope that I’d stumble upon two of my heroes, but fate had other plans. Although currently struggling under the megalomaniacal tyrant Rob Ford, Toronto seemed like a better place that day due to the fact that half of VW was somewhere amidst the depths of the impersonal concrete jungle.
Sheer adrenaline must have played a part in making time move faster, because the next thing I knew I was being shepherded into the studio along with droves of other fans, the majority of them female. The co-ordinator had told me that one’s place in the audience was not determined by one’s place in line. Confused, I soon realized that the studio crew held full control and tried to place an even number of girls and guys in the cameras’ view. Given the lack of males, I was planted firmly behind the couch, which meant I’d be admiring the back of my favourite musicians’ heads. My fortunes changed when the director was picking out members of the audience to ask questions on air. I raised my hand without hesitation, already with two ideas in mind, and my eagerness was rewarded with a coveted spot on the couch facing the interviewees.
To pass time, I got to know the other fans on the couch while fretfully going over the question I had in mind so that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself on national television. My first instinct was to poke fun at the plentiful lyrical references to fire on the new tracks and ask if they had been reading Dante’s Inferno in the studio, but then I remembered my friend had been pestering the band as to whether a banjo would find its way onto MVOTC and decided to humour her. After the director handed me a microphone and wished me good luck, my heart went into my mouth and I realized that we were about to go live. I vacuously listened to the VJ go through his motions before finally introducing Vampire Weekend. Craning my neck, I spotted Ez and Rostam high-fiving their way through a makeshift human tunnel and emerge to sonorous applause.
As trivial as it may sound, I was dumbfounded by their presence a mere six feet away. I tried to take a picture with my phone, but was shaking so hard that the result was a hazy blur. After five minutes of listening to the two discuss details of the new album, I felt more lucid and was ready when the VJ broke off his interview to say “We have an audience question from Tomi in the crowd, huge Vampire Weekend fan, what do you wanna ask them, Tomi?”
I cleared my throat, but my voice rose about five octaves as it so often does when I become anxious. With the nasal tone of a pre-pubescent 11 year-old, I asked, “Hi, I was wondering if you could reveal which song on LP3 would be featuring a banjo?” Perhaps to soothe my nerves, Ezra replied untruthfully, “Good question.” Smiling demurely, Rostam took the reins from there and said, “Well, it’s pretty subtle, but it’s the song ‘Hannah Hunt’ and it comes in on the second verse of the song.” That satisfied me to no end, and apparently the show too, as they cut to a commercial soon afterwards.
This is where I had to pinch myself to ensure I wasn’t dreaming. After putting down his microphone, Ezra languidly rose from the couch and strode over to where I was sitting. With his lanky arm outstretched, he shook my hand and said, “Hey Tomi, I recognize you from Twitter” (note: I’ve had a few interactions with him on the social network). Wide-eyed, I looked at Rostam, who nodded and said with a smile, “Hey, Tomi”. Not missing a beat, Ezra began talking to me about their last show in Toronto on Sept. 7, 2010. I was shocked to hear that he remembered almost as much of it as I did; from when he rapped T-Pain’s line about Toronto condos on “Can’t Believe It” before launching into “California English”, to the guy in the Cheers shirt. As there were many more people waiting for a chance to meet the two, I settled for a quick picture with them using my disposable camera before saying my goodbyes (rather regretfully, I might add).
Though the film remains undeveloped, I already have a place of honour reserved on my wall for the special photo. As Ezra sings on “Ya Hey”, I’ll ride with Vampire Weekend “through the fire, and through the flames.”