#ThrowbackThursday: The Vaccines @ Electric Ballroom, London 1/21/13

Win tickets to see one of your favorite bands, rush to an unfamiliar part of an unfamiliar city, and get an A writing about it

The Vaccines play a homecoming gig at Electric Ballroom, London - January 21, 2013

The Vaccines play a homecoming gig at Electric Ballroom, London - January 21, 2013

This #ThrowbackThursday brings you some more of my university work, but this time from my spring semester studying abroad in London in 2013. During that time, I took a Music in 20th Century Britain class that was taught by the knowledgable and quite cool Professor/musician Adam De La Cour. He assigned us to write two "concert reports," reviewing two concerts we attended, either on our own or with the class, during the semester.

By pure stroke of luck, I had entered to win tickets to see one of my favorite bands, The Vaccines, at Electric Ballroom in London during the first few weeks of classes and won.

On the day of the show and the day the winners were to be contacted, I was out exploring London and was away from wifi to be able to check my email. That evening when I sat down at my laptop back at my residence to start homework, I saw the email congratulating me on winning a spot for myself and a friend on the guest list of the show being put on by MTV as part of their "Brand New" campaign, featuring artists that were up for the MTV's Brand New for 2013 award. I also saw that the concert was starting in an hour.

I was ecstatic, as I never win things like this, and before I realized what I was doing, I was already putting on my shoes and grabbing my coat while asking my roommate to come with me to the Camden neighborhood of London for the show. She was hesitant, as we didn't know how to get there via public transportation or how to get back later that night without having been to that part of London yet - and we would be out without functioning smartphones to look up those details later. But thankfully she was quick to get on top of researching all that before we had to leave the safe zone of wifi.

As a huge music fan, this spur of moment concert-going experience was exciting and I had decided to write about that night's show for one of the concert reports for my Music in 20th Century Britain class. After he had graded it, Professor De La Cour told me it was too long (yes, I wrote way more than was required because I get passionate about things I like, ok), but because it was so well written, he gave me an A.

So here is my passionate, long-winded, perfect-scoring concert report on The Vaccines' show at Electric Ballroom in London on January 21, 2013:

On the night of January 21st, I found myself at Electric Ballroom in Camden, waiting for one of my favourite bands to take the stage after I had won two spots on the guest list for a friend and myself. Once the band made its appearance, the crowd greeted The Vaccines with exuberant cheers that signaled it was ready to dance and sing along to the band’s indie rock numbers.

But before The Vaccines played their spirited headlining slot, Kodaline and Tom Odell played an opening set each. This particular show was put on by MTV as a part of its Brand New campaign with both opening bands being nominees for MTV’s Brand New For 2013 award. 

Kodaline is a quartet of twenty-somethings from Dublin that brings together ranging emotional vocals, essences of Mumford and Sons with a mandolin and harmonica, and sounds of young budding Coldplay with loud layering of electric and acoustic guitar. Kodaline’s UK chart spot earning track “All I Want”, first featured on their 2012 self-titled EP, proved to be familiar among the crowd, as the audience practically yelled the lyrics back at the stage. Once this Dublin band settled on a member line up in 2011, it has been functioning under the name Kodaline ever since. Led by Steve Garrigan who sings from under the shade of his shaggy blond fringe and makes the most instrument changes during the set, with Mark Prendergast on guitar, Jason Boland on bass, and Vinny May on drums, Kodaline can aptly fill anyone’s craving for sentimental songs that rely on swooping vocals, guitar play, and the occasional keyboard element.

Ireland's own Kodaline

Ireland's own Kodaline

Tom Odell followed, taking station at a piano with his band (that included a upright bass player) surrounding him. Odell pounded on his piano and rocked on his stool in the style of Chris Martin, while putting forth passionate vocals that have just enough rough edge to add sincerity and balance out the heavyhearted lyrics and melodies of some songs. The night’s compelling rendition of “Another Love”, a track featured on both UK charts and the singer-songwriter’s 2012 EP, Songs From Another Love, brought the crowd to singing along at maximum capacity. This seemed to encourage Odell to lift from his piano stool as he punctuated the climax of the song with a few bangs to the top of the piano with his hand. Despite his small stature, at this point, he had conquered the entire audience with his ability to make his piano-laden tunes sound big. The West Sussex native is nearly 22 years old and can already boast a Critics’ Choice Award from the 2013 Brit Awards. With his youthful floppy blond hair swaying as he works his piano keys and distinct vocals while the girls in the audience swoon, one can’t help but think this kid knows how to write songs.

Tom Odell readies himself to pound that piano

Tom Odell readies himself to pound that piano

Both Kodaline and Tom Odell had forthcoming albums to promote that they didn’t fail to mention during their sets, but The Vaccines were making a homecoming pit stop in the midst of their ever-busy tour schedule. The band’s latest LP, Come of Age, was released in September 2012 and reached the number one spot on the UK Albums Chart, a little over a year after the release of its debut album, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?. Ever since making a splash in the music scene in late 2010, The Vaccines have garnered much attention and acclaim as the saviours of guitar music and marking a new era of guitar bands, being featured on magazine pages, performing on British and American television, and booking an endless amount of gigs and festival slots.

When The Vaccines finally stepped out in to the light of the Electric Ballroom stage, greeting the fervent crowd with polite hand waves, everything filled out nicely. Guys in Vaccines t-shirts moved in from corners of the venue, others gathered together to form a mass that would later bounce in unison to the beats of songs, and The Vaccines responded with a resounding performance.

The band is a group of Londoners in their twenties fronted by Justin Hayward-Young with Freddie Cowan on guitar, Arni Arnason on bass, and Pete Robertson on drums (sorry girls, he’s married). They didn’t play like a band that has been on tour for the majority of the past two years having just come back from a string of gigs in Australia and Asia; The Vaccines played like they were happy to be home, even if just for a moment before leaving to tour the United States.

There was no hesitation before The Vaccines launched in to the first song of their set. The raucous introductory guitar build up of lyrically defeating but musically uplifting “No Hope”, the first single off the band’s sophomore album, brought everything in to full swing. The middle of the crowd became a jumping mass and voices yelled lyrics so loud that they drowned out Hayward-Young’s vocals. The thing that brought everyone back was Cowan’s rapacious guitar parts that also rallied the entire performance forward. Hayward-Young brought his own animated fervour to the performance with using most of the stage as his stomping grounds.

Frontman Justin Hayward-Young of The Vaccines sings his heart out

Frontman Justin Hayward-Young of The Vaccines sings his heart out

This was the third time I have seen The Vaccines headline a gig; I saw them perform twice last year in New York. The Vaccines’ music thrives in the live setting, in a smaller club-like venue that allows audience members to experience the music with each other and the band in close quarters - an environment the Electric Ballroom was able to provide. It’s all about the intimacy. The true test will come in how they fare headlining their biggest gig to date at London’s O2 Arena in May, which I will be attending.

 Nonetheless, the band had no problem commanding the Electric Ballroom with their guitar-driven indie rock that takes influence from 50s rock and roll, 70s punk, and the likes of The Strokes. The Vaccines played at similar venues when I saw them in New York; however, the difference comes with the audience.

The Vaccines are more popular in the UK than they are in the US. In both places, their gig audiences consist of similar people, mostly young (some accompanied by a parental guardian) and mostly girls, who all have a liking for music that is deemed “alternative”. Compared to the New York gigs, the Camden audience had no problem in showing their appreciation for the music and the band as they sang as loudly as possible during the entire set and taking every opportunity to dance. This may have been aided by the UK’s lower drinking age compared to the drinking age in the US, but the audience at Electric Ballroom was audibly and visibly more energetic and enthusiastic than the New York audiences.

The set list pulled from both albums, steering clear of any B-sides and showcasing singles. The set ended with “Norgaard”, a single off the band’s debut album. This song is the traditional closer for Vaccine gigs and it is also traditional for the crowd to expel its remaining energy with a communal shove to the front during this one and half minute long song about a young fashion model.

When The Vaccines leave the stage, they always leave you wanting more, not only because their sets are usually short, but also because they are a genuinely great live band. The Vaccines have lived up to the hype they received at the beginning of their career and continue to prove themselves worthy of any buzz.

UPDATE: Hey, SPIN, I'm available.

Itching to go to another show and buy more band t-shirts that won't fit in my closet,

#ThrowbackThursday on Bria's Slice of Cake nostalgically dwells on past events that deserve some reminiscing or resurrects material I've written for previous purposes and now wish to share again with a bit of an update on the subject. Think of it like a nice catch up over cookies and milk or a really thoughtful regift.