Dams of the West at SXSW

Words by Katy Szendrey


A side project that redefined all expectations we have for side projects from here on out, Dams of the West brings a familiar voice with a completely new sound and feel from Vampire Weekend’s Chris Tomson at Waterloo Records SXSW day party on March 16th.

With his quirky style and talent combined, Chris Tomson (CT) has a project outside of Vampire Weekend which has a unique and feel-good sound. His first record entitled, Youngish American was released this year on February 24th. With relatable lyrics with underlying political meanings, CT’s debut solo project makes for a great album and memorable performances.

As part of the local Austin record store SXSW day parties, Dams of The West brought energy and laughs from the crowd. Upbeat and dancey tunes in addition to CT’s comical commentary in between songs made the SXSW day show a whole lot of fun for the whole crowd. Even in muggy, cloudy weather, Dams of the West kept the Waterloo parking lot rocking during the short 45-minute set.

CT wanted to experiment with a new sound. Most people know him for playing the drums in Vampire Weekend but in Youngish American he plays every instrument on the record; he even learned how to play guitar to take on this solo act.

Even though it is a one man band, he wasn’t able to make the record completely solo. He found help from The Black Keys’ own Patrick Carney, who produced the record.

The record has ten songs, a few of which have humorous lyrics that many millennials can relate to, such as “Pretty Good Wifi” and “Flag on the Can,” which refers to the American Flags that have recently appeared on Bud Light’s can branding.

At the Waterloo Records day party set, CT kept making remarks that “it felt like a real show.” The energy and excitement he had while performing reflected how proud he was to be playing his new work for others. The opportunity to play at SXSW with his solo project must have been one of the first large crowds it had been debuted to.

Even though he has performed several times with Vampire Weekend, you could tell he was not used to performing and being the frontman. After every song, CT would chat with the crowd about the next song to explain his inspiration for the lyrics. He had a nervous energy that showed when he stumbled over words and at one point accidentally pushed over the mic, but it came off as quirky and endearing that kind of exemplifies Youngish American.

If you are looking for a feel good album with relatable lyrics that makes you feel like taking a stroll on a sunny day, or going for a picnic with friends in a park, this is it. While that’s a pretty specific scenario, this album would basically work to be the soundtrack for any positive and relaxed environment. The upbeat tracks and positive attitude exuding from Dams of the West are a refreshing addition to the indie music world. Seeing a Dams of the West Show and buying or streaming Youngish American is a must for all you indie/alternative junkies out there!