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CONE Presents: I Went on Vampire Weekend’s NYC Scavenger Hunt – This is What I Found

Vampire Weekend seems to be ever-present these days, from gracing the MSG jumbotron at a recent NY Rangers game to bringing out Paris Hilton as a surprise guest at Coachella, the band is firmly at the forefront of global pop culture. The renewed enthusiasm (well, renewed for some – some of us never lost it) for the indie-rock group from NYC comes on the back of their resoundingly well received 5th studio album titled “Only God Was Above Us” which released earlier this month. Yet if you rewind 3 or 4 months to the start of this year – the current blaze of hype, visibility, and social cachet was only just beginning to fester. Since the start of the year, the band’s monthly stream count on Spotify is up nearly 50%, currently sitting at ~8 million per month. While Vampire Weekend has always maintained a loyal fan base of passionate “indieheads”, it appears as if 2024 is the year the group catapults into full-fledged rock stardom. 

The road to headlining the Outdoor Stage at Coachella alongside reality TV royalty was a long but consistent one for the trio from New York. Since their self-titled debut album ‘Vampire Weekend’ released in 2006, the group has remained steadfastly committed to two things: making great music and engaging with fans. It’s that second element that we at CONE Mag have found incredibly interesting (and exciting) to follow this year. Like everyone else, we were stoked to see the OGWAU album announcement in February… so much so that we, along with thousands of others, took to the reddit threads and blog posts for any whiff of news (read: leaks) from the new album. It was this fervor and enthusiasm, successfully cultivated by Vampire Weekend and their reps, that drove near universal anticipation for OGWAU. One key component of this pre-launch “hype” campaign was an NYC-based scavenger hunt to find 100 signed copies of the band’s yet-to-be-released album scattered around the city. To experience the action first hand and attempt to acquire one of these limited edition EPs (spoiler, we were not one of the lucky 100 folks who got an album), we had our own Hannah Morelli participate in the 5-day event. Read on to see how it went:  


April 1 – Day 1:

In the elaborate build-up to their album release, Vampire Weekend orchestrated a daily ritual for their fans: at 11am ET (roughly) a clue would be sent to those who had signed up, either via text or through Instagram DMs. Each clue contained lyrical references directing fans to New York City landmarks, with the landmarks carefully selected to highlight meaningful or memorable locations for Vampire Weekend and their local fans. After deciphering the codes and journeying to the locations, the band’s PR team would arrive, bearing signed vinyl records as rewards for the intrepid fans. It sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? However, as I was soon to learn, beating the hundreds of committed fans to each location proved anything but straightforward.

On the first day I received a text message from Vampire Weekend around 10:30am. The clue featured a photo of an alley, prompting fans to flock to the Vampire Weekend subreddit, where they deduced that this photo was taken in Cortlandt Alley in Tribeca, the filming location for the “Cousins” music video. When I arrived at the downtown location around 11:30am, there were already 10-15 people awkwardly standing in Cortlandt Alley, looking both excited and slightly confused. By noon, there were nearly fifty fans searching every corner of the street, to no avail. Finally, just after 12pm Vampire Weekend’s PR team arrived. They came from the north side of the alley, while the bulk of scavenger hunt participants were searching the south side of street. It ended up being fairly anticlimactic as they distributed the limited edition records to the fans nearest to them, rather than the first arrivals. This led to widespread disappointment, but the team reassured us that there were still four days left to secure a prize. There was consensus amongst (most) fans that they would continue to leave work, take an extra long lunch break or even call in sick in order to get their hands on this piece of Vampire Weekend history. 


April 2 – Day 2:

On the second day, I joined the scavenger hunt once again. This time, according to “the reddits”, the clue pointed to a location in Queens. I arrived at my subway station right at 11am, prepared to go wherever the redditor consensus instructed me to. That location turned out to be Taqueria Y Fonda La Mexicana, described as “the boys’ favorite burrito spot” on the Upper West Side. Despite the distance and some train issues, I managed to arrived at Taqueria Y Fonda at 12:20pm. Five minutes later someone informed us that, yet again, all the albums had been given out twenty minutes earlier (at noon on the dot), and the team had left.


April 3 – Day 3:

On the third day, I didn’t have any better luck. In fact, it turned out to be perhaps the most frustrating day yet. By this point, it was becoming evident that proximity to the locations determined the winners. The third clue, which directed fans to the “sweet spot on Lorimer St.”, ended up being Pete’s Candy Store. Since it wasn’t too far from me, I held out some hope that I might get there in time to snag a vinyl. Yet despite the rainy backdrop, the competition to arrive on location first was stiff. By the time I arrived, the first thirteen people were already inside collecting their winnings. As one member of the PR team came out to give us the unfortunate news once again, a guy next to me called his girlfriend to apologize for not getting there fast enough.


April 4 – Day 4:

I approached the fourth day with a new plan and renewed hope: I would board the MTA 7 subway train before 11am to determine the location en route. However, as time passed and no clue was available, it became evident that the organizers had intentionally delayed the clue. When the clue finally arrived, I discovered that it led to another location in New York’s Upper West Side. Despite arriving a little late at the landmark, Zabar’s, I managed to meet someone who had successfully secured a bright red test vinyl and who provided insights into how some contestants were able to reach the landmarks so quickly. While I didn’t win a prize, I walked away with a handful of new strategies for the final day.


April 5 – Day 5 (Album Release Day):

On the final day, I timed my travel plans to arrive at Times Square station promptly at 11:30am. The final text made a reference to “Billy Joel’s piano”, which was one of the more obvious clues, and led me to Madison Square Garden. Thrilled to be just one stop away, I encountered a challenge—MSG is massive with four distinct “entrances”. Making things worse, there was already a crowd of fans waiting for last-minute Olivia Rodrigo concert tickets. Fortunately, it was easy to differentiate between the two fanbases, and I quickly spotted the group of Vampire Weekend fans outside the newly renovated front entrance. Although there were about twenty of us, we had no idea if we were in the right place.

About 20 minutes later, our anticipation was quelled as the PR team approached us with bright orange tote bags. By this point, the crowd had swelled to nearly 50 people, but the team announced that they only had 30 albums to give out. The noise from the crowd made it difficult to hear anything clearly.

After distributing the first batch of albums, the team decided to conduct a trivia test to determine the winners of the remaining albums. One fan named Nikki won a vinyl by correctly naming a Vampire Weekend song that had been featured in a film (“Jonathan Low,” which was included in the Twilight franchise). Nikki had participated earlier in the week without success, but she said that the promotion had been a great opportunity for her to connect with other fans. 

In the end, the scavenger hunt was a fun and creative effort to engage fans directly and add to the growing excitement for Vampire Weekend’s new album release. Despite encountering a few obstacles at first, the organizers worked diligently to troubleshoot issues along the way. It was clear that Vampire Weekend’s PR reps had not anticipated such a high degree of engagement from fans. Over the course of the 5-day event, hundreds of New Yorker’s raced from borough to borough, all directed by a single text message or Instagram DM. There were hundreds more who could not participate physically, but were actively assisting those who could by helping research and identify locations online. Vampire Weekend’s PR team attempted to quell the groans of disappointed fans each day with slight tweaks to the clue dissemination process – the clues became simpler and arrival times were more specifically stated as the week progressed. Additionally, each location seemed to have more vinyl records available than the prior location. 

While there were clearly some hiccups along the way, the experience allowed participants to engage more deeply – not just with Vampire Weekend, but with other fans as well as the city itself. 


Words by Hannah Morelli


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