Indie music lovers, old punk rockers and young alternative junkies alike converged at the A&R Music Bar Wednesday evening to see The Vaccines showcase some raw talent from the U.K.
The Vaccines, selling enough tickets to completely fill the relatively small standing-room only venue, brought their quartet to Columbus for a one-night-only show from their English Graffiti Tour in honor of their most recent album of the same name which released this year.
Rolling right onto the stage with a quick hello from frontman, lead vocalist and guitarist Justin Hayward-Young — also known as Jay Jay Pistolet, which I thoroughly enjoy because it’s super punk rock-esque — the band came alive with their first song of the night, “Handsome.” As soon as the sharp yet distorted guitar came in, it was easy to tell where pretty much all of their influence had come from.
I also realized at that moment why there were such a large number of middle-aged audience members in the crowd. Seeing and hearing The Vaccines play was like watching a contemporary Ramones show or being in the middle of The Clash’s “London Calling” recording. But it wasn’t just the denim vests adorned with clever buttons and patches that were attracted to these guys, in fact their sound was at times a brand of American hardcore mixed with pop music that is completely unique to them and made me understand why so many diverse people stood around me singing along to almost every word like it was some sort of punk Taylor Swift song.
Playing their fair share of fast and loud songs, which included “20/20,” “Give Me A Sign” and “Teenage Icon,” the U.K. group broke out their music that qualified them as indie rockers as well as punk enthusiasts.
Acoustic guitar in hand, Hayward-Young melodically strummed the tune of “(All Afternoon) In Love” while Freddie Cowan, the band’s lead guitarist, turned the distortion down and reverb off on his electric guitar. This had an ethereal effect on the crowd and seemed to make one and all swoon to the sounds of acoustic and electric playing harmoniously.
After the softer songs, the band thanked us in their British accents and then stepped off the stage. Knowing that this was all a ruse to get the epic cliché “Encore, encore!” chant going in the crowd, I wasn’t worried about them actually not coming out. But after about five minutes and even the immediate cliché chant, they were still hanging out backstage, blocked from our view.
I mustered every ounce of gruff that I could put into my voice and loudly exclaimed, “One more song, one more song!” and eventually had the entire section I was in going on it. Little did I know that soon the entire venue would be filled with the continuous echo of my request.
Running back onto the stage came Hayward-Young, alone and unafraid. He picked up his acoustic guitar and said to the crowd, “You know, after six weeks on tour so far I’m starting to lose my voice. So I am definitely going to need you guys to sing loud with me here.”
The crowd erupted as he began to pluck out the notes for the song “Come of Age” from the 2012 album of the same name. The song was only penultimate, however. After the soft solo, the rest of the band came back up and with the loudest roar of the night; hair flailing, hands furiously strumming, they began to play “Norgaard,” a classic from 2011 album “What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?”
How appropriate to end an indie-punk concert with a song about high school lovers and their inability to commit to anything. With the final harsh trill of Cowan’s guitar, The Vaccines thanked us one more time as the bright spotlight in the bar switched on and the crowd divided into those dying to get out of the sweaty, humid room and those who ran to the back of the bar to try to grab some t-shirts because if they hadn’t loved the band already, they did now.
I can tell you with confidence, being responsible for the review of The Vaccines, that I was part of the latter group sprinting to get a shirt and display my love for such a great band that brings a unique sound to the table and can still put on an electrifying show.