The British music press generously applies the “next big thing” tag to its home-country bands like jam on crumpets. London rock brats the Vaccines have certainly enjoyed the griddle-cake treatment. A 2011 NME cover story ran with the lofty tagline “The Return of the Great British Guitar Band.” But the praise is not without reason.
In September, their sophomore album “Come of Age” debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. and a headlining gig at London’s 20,000-capacity O2 Arena is on the the hi-fi garagey foursome’s spring itinerary. Yet to hit those heights in the U.S., the Vaccines swung through the more modest Triple Rock Social Club on Saturday on their first headlining stateside trek.
Minneapolis’ own France Camp (aka Jay Simonson) kicked of the sold-out show with reverby fury. With his namesake project, the ex-Howler bassist shined as a goofily eccentric frontman, yelping into his mic and leaping into the crowd.
Up next came Current darlings San Cisco, whose simplistic single “Awkward” has been a local airwave favorite. Its standard pop structure and infectious “da-da-da-das” are so stupid that it’s almost brilliant. With only a four-track EP under its belt, the Aussie indie-pop quartet breezed through nine songs in 30 minutes. While sounding more impressive live than on record, it would be nice if the youngsters bolster their set list in time for their headlining Triple Rock show on March 30.
The Vaccines emerged just after 11 p.m. with a two-man film crew, who were apparently shooting footage for a DVD, lurking on the side of the stage. They immediately lunged into “Come of Age” opener “No Hope” with singer/guitarist Justin Young’s snotty vocals crawling over Pete Robertson’s ultra-crisp drumming. Looking somewhat like a Dave Grohl doppelganger, Young ditched his guitar for jangle-punk blitz “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra),” letting Freddie Cowan handle the song’s quick-hitting, surfy guitar solo.
“Wreckin’ Bar” provided the first of many clap-along moments during the band’s hour-long set, which slightly favored material from their stellar 2011 debut. For “A Lack of Understanding” and “Wetsuit” off “What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?” Young adopted an exaggerated Danzigian quiver in his voice. The later song felt like an early-set interlude, with Cowan and bassist Arni Arnason both turning to keyboards before springing back with surf-bop single “Teenage Icon.”
“I finally know what it feels like to be warm in Minneapolis,” Young said, ironically before a rather cold rendition of “Aftershave Ocean.”
But that would be the Red-Coat rockers’ lone sluggish moment in an otherwise energetic set. Deranged bouncer “Ghost Town” and hit “Post Break-Up Sex” had the mixed-age crowd (X’d hands and male pattern baldness were equally common) back in the palm of their hands.
After the spirited “If You Wanna,” Young, who earlier admitted that he had kind of lost his voice, announced that they would not leave the stage in typical encore fashion, shunning the ego-stroking tradition. Per the band’s Twitter account, vocal woes prevented an encore at a Chicago show a few days prior. Regardless, the furry frontman showed no sign of fatigue rounding out an 18-song set with the superbly sarcastic “Wolf Pack,” “Bad Mood” and an electrified, free-wheeling version of “Norgaard.”
Time will tell if the Vaccines can outgrow America’s club circuit. But if all of their shows on their maiden U.S. headlining tour are this much fun, they’ll be off to a good start.
Set list: No Hope / Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) / Tiger Blood / A Lack of Understanding / Wetsuit / Teenage Icon / Under Your Thumb / Aftershave Ocean / Ghost Town / Post Break-Up Sex / All In White / Change of Heart Pt. 2 / Blow It Up / I Always Knew / If You Wanna / Wolf Pack / Bad Mood / Norgaard
[Photo: Leslie Plesser]