If you're not already in the know, Baio is the solo project of Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio. And if his Saturday afternoon set on Treasure Island Music Festival's Tunnel Stage showed us anything, it's that he has a bold and unique identity all his own.
[jump] Baio's debut album The Names, is a mixture of hook-y indie ballads, strewn with Detroit techno and house-inspired forays. I've personally never heard an album quite like it, one that seamlessly jumps from indie pop songs like single “Sister of Pearl,” to electro-forward compositions like “All The Idiots.” Saturday's set pulled from all of these elements and in speaking on his debut, the debonair Baio explained that he wanted to it to be “a thrilling record”:
“I didn't want it to be the kind of record where you get to the middle point and there's like all the ballads… maybe it gets a little boring and becomes a part of the record that the listeners tends to skip over. Instead of doing that, I thought it’d be more exciting to have this banging, mournful, techno instrumental. I really wanted it to be a record where anything could happen and that's the way I chose to explore that,” he said.
He strutted on the Tunnel Stage in a two-tone blazer, toggling between his synth set-up and the front-and-center position with mic in hand. His methodical dance-moves showed a sincere sophistication of the Vampire Weekend sound, that fell in line with his polished and precisely-produced tracks. He was joined by a guitar player, who added depth to tracks like set opener “Brainwash yyrr Face” and the thrilling “Endless Rhythm.”
For most in the crowd, this was their first experience with Baio's live set and, for many, with his music itself. He last played Treasure Island in 2008 with Vampire Weekend, shortly before the group became one of the most recognizable indie bands and made a wildly successful jump into mainstream prominence. A nearby friend hearing the music for the first time proclaimed, “this definitely exceeded expectations.”
I had to agree.
Where Vampire Weekend members Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmanglij have transcended their affiliation with the band on their own projects, productions and featured appearances, it's now Baio who is trying to make a name for himself as much more than just a part of Vampire Weekend. “The ideal world is that this record finds its own audience and that there are people out there that are excited for me to make another one, because I know that I’d be excited for that,” he said.
He certainly found one such audience in the early Saturday sunshine of Treasure Island, as the cool breeze dissipated and gave way to the light and energy created by Baio.