Rostam sweetens up Valentine’s Day at a packed Fine Line, 2/14


Valentine’s Day – love it or hate it, it’s a day that comes once a year and forces us all to reflect on the “L” word. I have always considered myself someone more in the “what is the point of this holiday” category, but over the years I’ve warmed up to this mushy, gushy holiday. Sure – it’s a day that has the potential to throw you into a downward existential crisis and cause you to reflect on the status of your love life or lack thereof. But what’s more special about this day than your relationship status, is that it’s a day to reflect on love in all areas of your life – family love, friend love, fur-baby love and more. It’s a day to stop and reflect on all the ways we experience love in our live. From friends, from family, from friends who have become family. It’s a day to celebrate the good in the world that is manifested to us in so many different ways. And Rostam’s subtly beautiful set at the Fine Line was the perfect setting to reflect on all that good love stuff.

Wednesday night, Valentine’s Day, Rostam played the Fine Line and it was the perfect night with many couples choosing this as their Valentine’s date. The roughly hour long set was the perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day. “Maybe you’re here because you heard the album and loved it. Or maybe you’re here because someone you love heard the album” Rostam joked during the set, “but these songs aren’t for them,” he went on with a grin. There was no shortage of charm, jokes and all around good vibes from Rostam’s set. He was joined on stage by a string quartet as well as full band.

Rostam Batmanglij, better known simply as Rostam packed the Fine Line with a little help from openers Joy Again. Rostam is of course best known for his work in Vampire Weekend, which for me and many other 20-somethings, was a quintessential band throughout the formative high school and college years. However, Rostam is currently touring in support of his debut-solo album Half-Light and making major waves throughout the scene with his solo release. Though Rostam has headlined major festivals and embarked on massive tours with his band Vampire Weekend, there was a freshness and newness to his solo set. A dimly lit stage hid Rostam for most of the set (hence the darker photos), but also let his lights & production take center stage along with his perfectly polished sound.

That Vampire Weekend sound is definitely prevalent in Rostam’s solo work, as he played a huge role in the production of VW’s numerous chart-topping albums, with a unique sound all his own. A lot of his sound on Half-Light pays homage to his Persian heritage. Rostam was born to Iranian parents and grew up in Washington D.C. and currently resides in New York. His sound and live show seamless blends elements of both new world and old world that color much of Rostam’s heritage. The sitar, bells and strings old-world sound, layered over modern synth and electronic sounds blend perfectly into a sound that is so, well, distinctly Rostam. Psychedelic, floral scenes swirled behind Rostam for some songs while images of the New York skyline danced behind Rostam & his band for others. The set was that perfect blend of new and old which Rostam so brilliantly captures on Half-Light.

Rostam’s roughly hour-long set featured many tracks from Half-Light including Wood, Bike Dream, Sumer and the title track Half-Light. The set also featured It’s Not My Fault from Rostam’s 2009 project Discovery, a duo comprised of Rostam and Ra Ra Riot’s lead vocalist Wes Miles. Rostam gave the crowd an encore with an untitled track which he said has “never been heard before.” The set showcased that brilliance that is the musical mind of Rostam and left me not only wanting more, but eager to see what Rostam cooks up next.

Opening up the evening was Philadelphia-based 5-piece Joy Again. While I only caught the tail end of their set (and missed my window for photos), I was hooked with what I heard. They have a psychedelic, surf-rocky, sunny inspired sound which made for the perfect precursor to Rostam. Jangly guitars and a very DIY sound color much of Joy Again’s sound but it’s clear these five are on the cusp of big things. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we see Joy Again in front of a packed house in Minneapolis.