The Vaccines @ Bowery Ballroom 1/20/2011


Last night the Vaccines played their first US show ever.  I was there.  It was awesome.  I’ll get to it within three paragraphs, but first the opening bands.

Young Buffalo played first and there sadly wasn’t anybody really there yet.  That’s a shame because they played a great show.  They looked like they were having a good time because they were having a good time, and it came out clearly through their music.  The guitarist and drummer switch was pulled off flawlessly, and I really have to give commendation to the guy who took over guitar because he seemed like the kind of lead singer others admire.  That’s not to say the bassist (who led until that point) was bad at all, as all three of them harmonized almost constantly to great effect.  My one gripe with Young Buffalo is that all of their songs sounded very similar, and unfortunately none had a hook that I remembered this morning.  Their execution on stage, though, was flawless and fun.

Oberhofer was the second band, and I can’t say I liked them too much.  Now, I don’t bad talk bands and I’m not going to tell you not to see them, but they honestly weren’t for me.  I liked the last two songs a lot because they were actually songs, but everything else they played before those were more like sound amalgamations.  Every piece started with a staccato-y high melody that led to falsetto ooh’s, yelps, and finally a crazy noise ending.  Over and over again.  That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining to watch, but I can’t imaging Oberhofer as anything other than a live show. 

The frontman apes Ezra Koenig just enough that I noticed it, and honestly it made me like him more than I should have.  The star of the show was the bassist, though.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of him!  It’s not what it sounds like, I swear (haha).  His hipster/Italian model getup and ridiculous dance moves made him the star of the show.  Either he was unbelievably into it, or was completely acting, because he covered no middle ground between the two.  That was the best part of their show, I’d say.

Finally, the Vaccines took the stage and it was immediate that the crowd was there for them.  They wasted no time and performed what was probably the bulk of their soon to be released debut LP.  They were precise and the sound was good, though maybe a little too reverb-y.  Yet their surf style definitely made the crowd of hipsters go nuts, as that is what’s hip right now.  I’d say that the arrival of an actually talented band might finally bring down this chillwave nonsense and encourage people to start making fun rock and roll again.  Even if that rock and roll is drenched in reverb.

As for the songs played, their already released singles made the biggest splash without a doubt, but there were definitely a few more gems introduced to the crowd.  “If You Wanna” was the most known by the crowd, and for good reason.  The song fills a gap that has been empty since the Strokes’ “Last Nite” became an instant classic.  The song is built the same way, with a structure that keeps you waiting for the chorus, catchy verses to entertain along the way, and a solo that is completely memorable.  This is the best example of what the Vaccines are looking to accomplish. 

The music itself isn’t afraid to be fun, and that’s what really makes the band shine.  They aren’t hesitant to go for the easy chorus if that’s the one that people will remember.  Too many bands today try to get through by avoiding the mainstream completely, but the secret is taking the simple, mainstream sound and making it your own.  That’s the complete difference between Oberhofer and the Vaccines, as the former fights the tide, the latter has no problem riding it along a crest of success.

Two other things I noticed were these.  There were a few songs that honestly failed to meet the standards of their hits, one being the keyboard-led one, which was a tad annoying at best.  The other was completely reverb and all that was yelled was “yeah” a bunch of times.  The band even gave each other a look during the latter that seemed to say “I can’t believe they’re into this song!”  It still wasn’t entirely bad though, so I commend the band for doing something interesting and different.

The other thing I noticed is why this band is getting the hype they are.  I (by chance and luck) talked with the bassist outside for a minute and asked him about the attention.  He pretty much said that it is what it is, and that they’re happy for it.  That right there sums up the band’s aesthetic.  This aesthetic is in line with how I imagine the Strokes felt when they blew up.  The Vaccines also match up with the Strokes in terms of their stage presence.  They come out, talk very little, and play their songs well.  The songs are simple and full of hooks made to be remembered, and that’s why they’re going to be huge.  I can’t remember one song from the opening bands, but everything the Vaccines played is ingrained in my memory forever (or at least until Tokyo Police Club plays tonight!).

To sum things up, I wrote earlier that I didn’t think the Vaccines should be considered the “saviors of rock and roll,” and I still don’t.  What I think they’ll be now is the band that will inspire every other musician to take back the genre that, at this point, has been so corrupted with garbage that it’s no longer recognizable.  “If You Wanna” is the new “Last Nite,” at least until March 22nd.  It’s nice to see honest and skilled musicians make music that doesn’t try too hard to win your heart, but does anyway through talented songwriting alone.  Long live the Vaccines…

Enjoy a song and thanks for reading!

The Vaccines – Blow It Up


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