I remember one of my musician friends (he won’t be named here) complaining upon seeing the Vaccines on the BBC’s Glasto coverage in summer 2011. He said that looking at them on the Other Stage made him sick, that it signalled the death of British guitar rock. While I didn’t take his words to heart, I myself was not too impressed with the band at that time, or any time before; I just assumed they were a bunch of blokes who just happened to get very lucky because NME decided to choose them as the new ‘it’ band.
If you go back through the TGTF archive, the first time we truly wrote about them was when they were voted by the fans in late December 2010 for the #7 spot in the TGTF 10 for 2011 poll. I never received any official promo and had to scramble to find a photo of them at the time. Moving a good 2 years forward, the band have released two albums, ‘What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?’ in 2011 and ‘Come of Age’ last year, and they enjoy massive success back home.
But they’ve only had a handful of relatively low profile appearances in America over the last 2 years: SXSW, Coachella, and a support slot with Arctic Monkeys. So it was with much surprise that the 9:30 Club Twitter account a couple days prior to their show in DC Friday night announced a low ticket warning; their Web site announced the day of the show that it was sold out. By the time we arrived at the 9:30 to queue for the show, we learned that suddenly 50 tickets had been released. So the show was sold out…pretty much. It certainly felt sold out, as when singer Justin Hayward-Young asked, “what does Washington sound like on a Friday night?” the resultant cheer was massively loud and sounded like nearly one voice.
At first, I was pretty surprised to see that most of the crowd was underage. This made more sense when the Vaccines’ only opener, San Cisco, took the stage. They’re an indie pop band from Fremantle, Western Australia; the second frontman Jordi Davieson addressed the crowd, female squeals emanated from the already full floor. XFM DJ Mike Walsh has compared their sound to Vampire Weekend, which I could understand seeing them live.
There’s a carefree sillness in ‘Lyall’, in the lyrical delivery that included other singer Josh Biondillo sounding like a bird and a quality that I tried to explain on my last trip to Oz to our Aussie friends at the AU Review that is inherently Australian: a certain special, poppy rhythm. They delivered to us new song ‘Beach’, along with ‘Reckless and ‘Wild Things’, all the while being screamed and shouted out by their already devoted disciples. They acted as a good warm-up to the headliner.
I say this, because when you go to see the Vaccines, you’re not there for the intelligent lyrics. Their style of music is for fist pumps, raucous growls, dad-dancing and drunken nights. They came on stage to an introduction of Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel the Noize’; its identity was probably lost on most of the crowd. I was so surprised ‘Teenage Icon’, the best single from their current album, was played six songs in. Why give up your biggest hit right away? Though for the majority of DC fans present, the whole evening was lit up with hits, as Hayward-Young whipped his hair back and forth in a typical rock star move, while new band Instagramer Freddie Cowan rocked out on his guitar, eliciting screams when he leaned on an amp and was nearly close enough for the young crowd to reach out and touch.
Though the song order at times was strange (the slower ‘Wetsuit’ dropped the energy that was only partially recaptured with ‘Ghost Town’) and ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ was offered up I felt far too cheerfully for an emotionally raw song, mostly the band were letting loose on a blistering set of loudly and furiously played songs short in length. I wondered how they could top ‘Teenage Icon’ or ‘If You Wanna’ at the end of the show. The answer? An unrivaled version of ‘Norgaard’. And for a Friday night out with you mates, you can’t really ask for more than that.
After the cut: the Vaccines’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The Vaccines with San Cisco, 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 1st February 2013