the Artists Den
Vampire Weekend hit the ground running, opening their performance at New York’s General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen with “Diane Young,” the first single from the Grammy-nominated album Modern Vampires of the City. The set featured such hits as “Cousins,” “A-Punk,” and (especially fitting on a snowy winter’s eve) “Holiday.” With an audience of just 400 guests, this triumphant return to the city where the band was formed was the most intimate show Vampire Weekend has played in years.
Vampire Weekend formed in New York City in 2006 when bandmates Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio met while attending Columbia University and realized their shared interest in punk rock and African music. After graduating, the band began recording its self-titled debut. The album received positive internet buzz before its official release, with the single “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” making it onto Rolling Stone’s 2007 list of “100 Best Songs of the Year.” Following the album’s release in 2008, Spin chose Vampire Weekend as “The Year’s Best New Band.” The band’s second album, Contra, was released in 2010, becoming Vampire Weekend’s first album to debut at the Number One spot on the Billboard 200, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. In 2013, the band released its third album, Modern Vampires of the City, to nearly identical success. The album debuted at the top of the charts (marking the first time an independent rock band has had two consecutive Number One releases) and earned the band its second Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. The album also topped Rolling Stone’s list of the “50 Best Albums of 2013.”
The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen was founded in New York in 1785 by 22 of the city’s skilled craftsmen. In 1820, the society opened one of the city’s first free schools and a library for the instruction of apprentice boys. The General Society Library was the largest free circulating library prior to the founding of the public library system, and is now the second oldest library in the New York City. The society’s Lecture Series began in 1837 and featured such illustrious speakers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ward Beecher, Horace Greeley, and Wendell Phillips. In 1858, the society established its Mechanics Institute in order to provide free instruction in the technical trades. The library, Lecture Series, and Mechanics Institute all continue in operation today. The society moved to its current location on West 44th Street in 1899, taking over a building originally designed by Lamb and Rich for the Berkeley School for Boys. The building was later remodeled and expanded thanks to contributions from Andrew Carnegie, one of the society’s members.