Vampire Weekend is at BMO Harris Pavillion on June 4

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From left, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Baio, Christopher Tomsom, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend. Photo: Soren Solkaer Starbird

Which band is the only one in history to debut at  No. 11 on the Billboard album chart with two consecutive independently released projects?

If you guessed Vampire Weekend, you’re right.  Arguably the most critically celebrated and commercially successful of today’s alternative rock groups, Vampire Weekend heads to Milwaukee for the first major outdoor concert tour of the season at the Summerfest grounds’ BMO Harris Pavilion on June 4. The show is a great way to whet your musical appetite for the coming attractions at PrideFest. 

Vampire Weekend was originally slated for the Riverside Theater, but overwhelming demand for tickets prompted the move to the lakefront. Fans who bought tickets before the change of venue was announced will be seated in the lower bowl. Additional tickets are being sold for the upper bowl and the rear standing area.

The concert is the first non-festival performance at the BMO Harris Pavilion since it opened in 2012. Initial shows at the venue drew disappointing crowds, but the immensely popular Vampire Weekend should have a different fate.

Vampire Weekend came together in 2006 while the group’s members were students at New York’s Columbia University. The bandmates shared an interest in the unusual combination of punk rock and African music. Their sound has been favorably compared with Paul Simon’s albums Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints.

The name Vampire Weekend came from a short film project the group’s guitarist and lead vocalist Ezra Koenig worked on early in his college years. Word quickly spread in the Northeast about the band’s unique combination sound and literate lyrics. By the summer of 2007, the buzz surrounding Vampire Weekend had become deafening.

The group self-released an EP and signed with celebrated independent label XL Recordings to release its eponymously titled debut album in January 2008. Vampire Weekend’s first collection hit the top 20 on the U.S. album chart and was certified gold. Rolling Stone has since named it one of the top 25 debut albums of all time, citing its influence on a wave of alternative rock bands incorporating African sounds. 

Vampire Weekend celebrated its success by touring for nearly two years. The sophomore album Contra was released in 2010 — and topped the success of the first. It debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. album chart, a rarity for albums on independent labels.

In support of Contra, Vampire Weekend played in major festivals across the U.S., including Coachella, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits. In June the group appeared at England’s celebrated Glastonbury Festival. The band capped the year 2010 with a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album but lost to The Black Keys.

Following a break during which group members worked on outside projects, Vampire Weekend was at work on its third album by the end of 2011. The new album was recorded in a wide range of locations — from Hollywood’s Vox Recording Studios to a guesthouse on Martha’s Vineyard. The group deliberately worked to distance the sound of the new music from that of the first two albums, working to give the new music a warm sound that many believe is lacking in today’s digital recordings.

Upon release in May 2013, Modern Vampires of the City received nearly universal critical acclaim for the beauty of its songs and engaging, intelligent lyrics. It became the group’s second consecutive album to debut at No. 1 on the album chart while setting a contemporary record for selling 10,000 vinyl copies in its first week.

Earlier this year, the group received the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.

Vampire Weekend’s current concert tour includes a balance of songs from all three albums, which prevents the concert from being weighed down with the relative density of the music from Modern Vampires of the City.

The group delivers a tight show and dedicated fans will be singing along with such recent hits as “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers.” Vampire Weekend’s Milwaukee show also features the duo Cults as openers. Cults received positive reviews with both their eponymously titled debut album and last year’s Static.

So head to the BMO Harris Pavilion on Wed., June 4, to celebrate spring on the Lake Michigan shore with one of America’s current top bands.