By John Curley
The London-based quartet The Vaccines are riding high at the moment. One of the heavily hyped bands for 2011, they placed third in the recent BBC Sound of 2011 poll. They’ve appeared on BBC-TV’s Later with Jools Holland and have been receiving a good amount of airplay on the UK music radio stations like XFM. Building on their success at home, The Vaccines made the journey across the pond to play several shows in North America. Their United States debut took place on Thursday, January 20th at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. Blondie’s Debbie Harry was among those in attendance.
Formed only last year, The Vaccines are comprised of Justin Young on lead vocals and occasional guitar, Ámi Hjövar on bass, Freddie Cowan on guitar, and Pete Robertson on drums. (Cowan’s brother, Tom, is a member of the UK band The Horrors.) The band’s debut album, titled What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, is being released on March 21st in the UK. The US release date of the album has not been announced yet.
The Bowery Ballroom was sold out for the show, which was interesting since The Vaccines have gotten very little airplay on this side of the Atlantic. The Vaccines lived up to the hype, hitting the stage in style with the 90-second burst of energy that is “Wreckin’ Bar.” Their 40-minute set saw them blast through most of the tracks on the upcoming album as well as a cover of The Standells’ “Good Guys Don’t Wear White.” Justin Young commented from the stage that the band really liked Minor Threat’s version of “Good Guys Don’t Wear White,” so The Vaccines’ version of the song was more or less a cover of Minor Threat’s take on it.
The songs that got the biggest reactions from the audience were the ones that have been getting airplay in the UK, which are “Wreckin’ Bar,” ‘Post Break-Up Sex,” “If You Wanna,” and “Blow It Up.” While the crowd seemed excited with anticipation before The Vaccines took the stage, the majority of the audience was curiously lifeless during a good bit of the set. Perhaps that was down to the majority of the audience not being overly familiar with the material. I did get the sense that some members of the audience were there out of curiosity more than any other reason. Young stated during the set that the Bowery Ballroom show was the biggest gig they had ever played. Given that, the band must’ve been a bit disappointed by the lack of reaction from the crowd to their set. Despite the reactions from many other audience members, I thought that The Vaccines were brilliant. They’ve got great stage presence, and their powerful, short, and sharp songs are perfect for the Short-Attention-Span Generation.
There’s been some talk in the UK music press of late about how guitar-based music is going the way of the dinosaur. I don’t know about that. As long as bands like The Vaccines continue to emerge, guitar-based music has a firm, and exciting, future.
The Mississippi-based band Young Buffalo opened the Bowery Ballroom show. I missed their set, unfortunately, so I’m not able to report on it. Next up was Oberhofer, a band from Brooklyn. They were terrible. They seemed under rehearsed, and their quirky songs were annoying and fell clear short of whatever mark they were trying to hit.
The Vaccines’ set list was as follows:
We Are Happening
Post Break-Up Sex
All In White
If You Wanna
What’s Your Perception
A Lack Of Understanding
Blow It Up
Good Guys Don’t Wear White