Saturday, 17 November 2012
864 THE VACCINES, Diiv, Deep Valley, Pale, Cardiff University Great Hall, Friday 16 November 2012
Things didn’t bode well after a nightmare journey; Rach picked us up straight from work, but slow M4 traffic throughout Wales turned into a parking-mare in central Cardiff, as we realised with horror that there was a Wales Rugby International on that evening at the Millennium Stadium! I bloody hate rugby at the best of times, and this was just so ill-timed… After an increasingly frustrating drive around, we eventually lucked into a residential space just round the corner from the back of the venue! Crossed the railtracks, then entered this labyrinthine student union to get to the venue… back over the tracks again! Weird! So we wandered into the Great Hall just as duo Pale, first band on (of 4!), were completing their set, channelling the ghosts of Soft Cell with their dour synthpop.
Worse was to follow, though, as 2 girl Deep Vally, on at 8, assaulted our ears with the lowest common denominator type of primitive bluesy grunge sludge, tuneless and horrendous (The White Stripes have a lot to answer for, we agreed), so we abandoned the hall and hung out in the foyer until they stopped. Main support Diiv could only be an improvement after that, and they were; a group of scruffy oiks playing fast-paced, chiming, largely instrumental, freeform and chorus-free powerpop songs with understated shoegazey vocals, which stopped every two minutes or so then seemingly kicked into the same song again! I was actually kindly disposed towards them, but I was happy to concede to Rachel’s point that from our stage right vantage point, on the fringes of the crowd, their floppy fringes and oversized grunge t-shirts made them look like young Hurleys!
Rach and I took bets on whether The Vaccines would keep this large, young and drunkenly enthusiastic crowd waiting; she won, as the lights dimmed only a minute after the scheduled 9.45, and The Vaccines came on to the strains of ELO’s “Living Thing”. Lead rabble-rouser Justin Young bounded on to a, “what’s up? It’s Friday night!” and led the band into a chuntering, swaggering “No Hope”, followed up with a Ramones-like, big, dumb and fast “Wrecking Bar”, that really ignited the crowd into a frenzy of moshing and singing along.
This set the tone for the early part of the set; ragged, ramshackle yet joyously fun spunky rock thrills, the band getting by on theirs and the audience’s collective sweaty exuberance. However, what really made this set for me early doors was when they took their feet off the loud pedal and actually turned it down a notch. So a lovely, mid-paced and swaying “Lack Of Understanding” ventured into soda-bar doo-wop territory, and a subsequent rousing singalong to the strident Buddy Holly-esque ballad “Wetsuit” saw us party like it was 1957, before a jolly “Teenage Icon” turned the spunky punky wick up again, whilst keeping one foot in the 50’s with the Frankie Avalon namecheck. Vocalist Justin Young’s vocals thankfully sounded much better this time, more proper rock vocalist than bellowing drunken karaoke, and the band played fast and frantic to back him up. A late-set double of another rousing singalong to Aftershave Ocean”, and the mutant rockabilly of “Ghost Town” was another highlight, before set closer, the Soup Dragon-like C86 guitar and drum bombast of “If You Wanna” saw even me getting sucked into the slamdancing hordes. A 3 song encore capped with “Norgaard” rounded off a swift hour from a band who really rather raised their game tonight and started to justify their acclaim and reputation. Great gig, way better than expected, thanks – and the last time they’re playing venues this small, I bet...!