I have Sarah Henderson to thank for this one... when indie pop pilferers and doubtless future (and before too long I’d guess) arena-fillers The Vaccines announced a mini tour of smallish (for them) venues, ostensibly to bed in material from forthcoming album “English Grafitti”, fangirl Rach looked into getting tix for this one, but they sold out in pretty short order. However, I was happy to relieve old Level 3 and facebook friend Sarah of her 2 tix, when she suddenly realised, after receiving them, that they were for a different night than the one for which she was available. Whoops… the lesson here, ladies and gentlemen, is…! Thus was an unexpected extra added to my Spring dance card, a chance to catch up with these fun but plagiaristic indie darlings to see if they’d written any songs of their own by now… (ouch!)
We had new babysitters tonight, in Rach’s work friend Laura and her fiancé Rob (thanks guys!), so we set off for a swift drive to this easy-to-find venue, finding ample parking in the cricket ground opposite and wandering into this large hall, as openers Fufanu kicked off their early set. An Icelandic lot, apparently, they regaled us with a doomy brand of droney pseudo-80’s post punk gothy rock, which normally would have been right in my Bunnyman/ Joy Division-inhabited wheelhouse were it not for the fact it was suffocatingly and somewhat ham-fistedly delivered, and the last number’s vocals seemed incredibly out of key. However after 1 ½ numbers of main support All We Are, we were wishing for Fufanu back, as the female fronted 3-piece AWA were excruciatingly godawful; their opener was the kind of piss-weak insipid white boy jazz funk which I rather hoped had gone out of fashion with The Style Council, then they went downhill from there, by which time we were in the bar trying in vain to escape their irritating noise, particularly the blonde vocalist, who sang as if she was wearing knickers 10 sizes too small for her!
Thankfully it eventually abated, so we found a good viewing spot stage left for The Vaccines arrival to an enthusiastic welcome from their keyed up and ready to rock young massive. Straight into tubthumping, roustabout opener “Teenage Icon” and revealing their 2 key influences from the outset in the couplet, “I’m no Frankie Avalon, I’m nobody’s hero…” 50’s embryonic rock’n’roll and 70’s post-punk new wave are stamped through The Vaccines work as through a stick of rock, with the gloriously dumb Ramones-like singalong punk of “Wreckin’ Bar” underlining this, and guitarist Freddie’s sleazy Cramps-like fretwork on the subsequent “Ghost Town” providing the punctuation point. Not that their young audience were playing “spot the influence” with this old muso… they were too busy moshing, raising the roof raucously singing along to The Vaccines’ easy and catchy hooks, and generally immersing themselves in a rocking good time.
As expected, a sprinking of newies punctuated the set, although only the hooky “Handsome” impressed; I found “Dream Lover” an unexpectedly jarring slow-burn glam sleaze with a Billy Idol-esque chorus, and “Want You So Bad” was a disappointingly incongruous slowie. No matter, there were still high spots aplenty in the older material; “Wetsuit” saw a mass singalong to this Buddy Holly doo-wop ballad, the mid-set double of the excellent, galloping “All In White” (which saw vocalist Justin abandon the mic for the crowd to fill in) and the haunting “Melody Calling” (“a golden oldie… from 2013,” introduced Justin) was a splendid mid-set double whammy, and the elongated, pounding intro to their best number, the penultimate “If You Wanna”, saw the crowd go even more batshit crazy, if at all possible.
The one hour set was capped by a 3-song encore featuring a bouncy “Norgaard”, after which the boys took a served bow; they’d put in a good shift tonight and left all their sweat and effort onstage, particularly Justin, who’s evolving ever more into a pretty decent singer and stadium-friendly frontman. A persistent but patient wait got me a set-list too, then off we went, with egress proving as easy as access, after a fine gig overall. So OK, they’re still not the most cutting-edge original band in the world, but there are plenty of other bands at a similar elevated level of popularity who are considerably less deserving of said status than this lot, who at least deliver an inclusive, effervescent and fun brand of catchy indie pop to their young audience. More power to ‘em, really. And thanks again Sarah for the tix!