Over the next couple of days, I’m going to review a few bands’ performances at Bonnaroo. Today I’m covering Vampire Weekend and The Raconteurs.

Vampire Weekend is a really young band. People seem to forget that a little over a year ago, pretty much no one had heard of them. They’re a big deal now in the indie world, and to an extent they deserve it: they made a really good album. But the fact of the matter is that their songwriting skills are mediocre, their ideas are unoriginal, and they aren’t good at their instruments. They get away with it because they have a lot of personality and they fit neatly into the indie world. Plus, the influences they blatantly steal (African music in particular) are different from the influences that most mediocre indie rock bands blatantly steal (The Velvet Underground, etc.). Their sound is not really their own.

I’m not trying to hate on Vampire Weekend, I like them. I’m just saying that they’re still young artists who still have to grow a lot if they want to be really good. I think it’s too bad that they got so successful so early on, because they must think they’re hot shit now that everyone has been saying they are. They’re going to become complacent, because they won’t realize that they need to get better if they want to survive as musicians. They’ll suffer from indie rock’s recent Second Album Syndrome (see: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Beirut, etc.), and I don’t think anyone will care about them in three years.

For these reasons, my expectations were low going into Vampire Weekend’s performance. And they were met. They played the songs from the album like they sound on the album. The lead singer, Ezra Koenig, made some reasonably funny banter with the audience, and he was gracious. It was really fun to hear their songs live (especially “A-Punk”, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” and “Boston” a.k.a. “Ladies of Cambridge.”). I hope they develop their live act into something really cool and personal, but I don’t think they will. Oh well.

The Raconteurs were awesome because Jack White is awesome. Jack White is my pick for greatest rock star of the 2000s. I was convinced when I saw a live concert DVD of the White Stripes. The man will scream into the microphone, make ridiculous facial expressions and gestures, jerk around like crazy, everything. He’s one of a small, elite group of people who just exude that rock star personality, who were born to be rock stars and live every day like rock stars. Honestly, I put his on-stage persona right up there with David Bowie, and Bowie is probably my favorite rock star ever. The only other musician right now who has as good a personality for his genre as Jack White is Lil’ Wayne for hip hop.

Like Lil’ Wayne, Jack White is completely crazy. You have to be enveloped in your own weird sense of reality to be a great celebrity and pop artist. My friend Felix’s sister did landscaping at his house in Nashville, and she talks about how Jack White would walk around the yard with his wife dressed in old southern aristocratic clothes (Mr. White in a suit and top hat, Mrs. White in a hoop dress).

Jack White’s presence on stage was huge. It helped that he was dressed in all black and had white makeup on his face to make him look really pale. He wailed his lyrics, he slammed the piano, he shredded his guitar. If you ever get the chance to see him live, do it.

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