I had the pleasure of encountering The Vaccines for the first time at Lollapalooza in the summer of 2011. They were playing the Music Unlimited stage early Friday morning. I remember feeling sorry for them because most of the people lining the barrier were there to see MUSE and aside from White Lies there wasn’t a lot of excitement for the rest of the Friday card. But give these guys credit – formed in 2010 in West London and releasing their first album, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?, in March of 2011 – they were opening for Arctic Monkeys in June, playing Lollapalooza in August, and ending with Reading and Leeds in mid-August. Not a bad start for a new band. Their debut album was followed by Come of Age in 2012 and their latest Album, English Graffiti, this year. I remember liking their sound back then, but sadly they fell off my radar screen for a while until I noticed that they were scheduled to play A&R Music Bar in Columbus this August. I decided to see how far they had come in four years.
For those of you who have never been to A&R Music Bar, understand that it is tiny! I’ve seen many big acts play there – Biffy Clyro comes to mind – but it was a bit puzzling to me why a band like The Vaccines would be there at this point in their career. Granted, they are a UK-based band and I figured they were barnstorming a lot of small venues in an attempt to break the US market and there wouldn’t be a lot of people attending. But by the time I arrived the line was stretched around the corner and down the street. That was surprise number one. The second surprise was that most of the crowd was younger than 21. I remembered them being a little heavier when they performed at Lollapalooza, so I was afraid that they had changed their act up substantially to reach a new market in the states. The first three rows back from the stage was jammed with young girls and women, so I was a little worried that they were now a stereotypical boy band. Don’t get me wrong, there were older people there as well, but they were keeping to the back and on the outside patio – almost as if they didn’t want to intrude on the young people who were there for a good time. And the third surprise – they didn’t subtract from their act because they were in a small venue. They were as happy to be there as the crowd was to be seeing them live.
My fears were put to rest with the first songs – Handsome and Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra). Lead vocalist Justin Young quickly took control of the crowd and had everyone singing along with him from the start. I will give props to any front man who stands on the barrier for the FIRST song of the set – and after that the crowd was ready to eat him up. The setlist was heavy with songs from their first and third studio albums, and light on the second. The crowd was into every song played – even the new ones. And the strangely cool autumn evening was perfect for (All Afternoon) In Love. Of course the catchy Teenage Idol was a crowd favorite. The encore started with a nice acoustic version of No Hope, and left the crowd rocking with Radio Bikini and Norgaard.
I will say that they have a bit more of a “pop” sound to them than I remembered, but I found myself liking them despite my tastes leaning a lot more on the rock/prog side. And I think that might be what saves them from the boy band bin. Judging from the mix of under-21s, young adults, and older adults in the crowd, they’re saved from having to play to one particular age group to sell their albums. As long as they can keep this mix, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the future. Sadly their last US date is September 1st, but if you want to catch them across the pond, you can find their tour dates here – http://www.thevaccines.com/tour/.
See the video for Dream Lover here –
All photographs except for the featured image and banner are copyrighted to Tara Pitts