Watch: Vampire Weekend Welcome Mike Gordon for “Chalk Dust Torture” Debut 

Rob Moderelli on June 21, 2024
Watch: Vampire Weekend Welcome Mike Gordon for “Chalk Dust Torture” Debut 

Photo Credit: Bill Kelly

Last night, June 20, Vampire Weekend touched down at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena for the final West Coast engagement of its expansive Only God Was Above Us Tour and the last of five dates with Phish’s Mike Gordon. Through the course of their series together, the indie vanguard and special guest bassist have been working their way to peak, which finally arrived on Thursday with a debut treatment of Phish’s classic “Chalk Dust Torture.” Vampire Weekend’s rendition was as exhilarating and surprise-filled as any fan could hope for, furthering the multifaceted band’s ongoing love affair with jam music.

Thursday commenced with a set from Gordon and his solo band, featuring Scott Murawski, Robert Walter, Craig Myers and John Morgan Kimock. The bass-driven quintet set off the show with a tight eight-track set of originals like “Say Something,” “Louisiana Sun” and “Guilty Pleasures,” dotted with classic Phish cuts and “Human Nature,” the only unrecorded entry from the legendary jam quartet’s forthcoming 16th studio album Evolve.

After the opener, Vampire Weekend stormed the stage for a sprawling, high-energy set that proudly displayed the many sides of its nearly 20-year catalog. Between nine cuts from Only God Was Above Us, including an explosive treatment of standout single “Gen X Cops,” the band shared fan favorites like “M79,” “Holiday,” “White Sky,” “Step” and “Sunflower.” While the healthy helping of memorable entries from its first four albums reminded fans of the group’s towering legacy, the true highlight from Vampire Weekend’s performance arrived near the end of the set, when the core trio of Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio and Chris Tomson invited Gordon to return to the stage.

In this move, Koenig rotated from center stage to the drumkit, leaving percussionist Tomson to take the mic and tease the crowd, “you guys wanna hear Forbin’s?” Together, the now eight-piece ensemble delivered Phish’s A Picture of Nectar centerpiece and breakthrough single “Chalk Dust Torture,” blazing through the classic behind Tomson’s lightning-quick guitar and dynamic vocals. Halfway through the track, the band brought the groove down to a simmer for an interlude of the English Beat’s “Mirror in the Bathroom” helmed by Koenig; this bold move honored Phish’s memorable 1998 Worcester show, when Gordon teased the cover in “Chalk Dust Torture” before a debut. The ska twist arrived at the perfect time for VW, who recalled their roots in the form on June 12 when the Beat and Voodoo Glow Skulls opened at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl.

While the Phish treatment was new terrain for Vampire Weekend, the band has underscored its affinity for jam music time and again. In a conversation for the April-May 2021 issue of Relix, Koenig shared, “I always liked the Dead, and I’ve definitely gotten more into Phish as I’ve gotten older. But, I also gotta shout out our drummer C.T. [Chris Tomson]. We both grew up in New Jersey, but we came at it from different directions. He’s like a jam dude—he’s seen Phish all these times… He has this Phillies parody Phish shirt and he wore it on TV once; he was always trying to subtly fly the flag.”

Like Tomson, the band has worn its influence well, most notably in its expanded live format with more personnel and improvisation, continuous collaborations with Goose and frequent covers of Dead essentials, like its delivery of “Peggy-O” on SiriusXMU and “Cumberland Blues” at its eclipse-themed tour opener.

Vampire Weekend will return to the stage tomorrow, June 22 for a performance in Bonner, Mont. for tickets and more information on the Only God Was Above Us Tour, which runs through October, visit

Watch highlights from Vampire Weekend’s June 20 performance below.