When people around the world can’t stop praising a certain band, it’s best to let curiosity take control. Listen to some tracks and maybe buy a concert ticket—the artists could be worth the hype. If all else fails, at least you’ll get a dose of another country’s culture. Or at least, that was the logic I followed when I decided to head to the Vaccines’ Triple Rock show on Monday. The British rockers have played on colossal bills and even headlined London’s O2 Arena (capacity: 20,000), so the chance to see them play the tiny Triple Rock was too good to pass up.
The Vaccines didn’t disappoint, ramrodding through 21 songs in 75 minutes. They’ve grown a lot since the success of What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, their cheeky 2011 debut album. After scoring hits like “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” and “Post Break-Up Sex” off What Did You Expect, the band wrote Come of Age (2012), a sort of response to their sudden popularity explosion. Melody Calling, a short EP, dropped in 2013. And this year, they returned with English Graffiti, a smoother collection of love songs (“Give Me A Sign,” “[All Afternoon] In Love”) among deeper, more searching political tunes (“Radio Bikini,” “English Graffiti”).
Frontman Justin Young performed with Morrissey-esque theatrics, sweeping his arm broadly toward the audience and even bowing once or twice. He called for cheers during the quiet parts of current single “Dream Lover,” and he cupped his ears during the “Anyone?” calls on “Minimal Affection.” Meanwhile, the other band members looked content on stage, occasionally looking out and smiling at the crowd. Guitarist Freddie Cowan showed off white teeth when ripping into solos—he’d grin at Young, gaze at the audience, and go crazy.
With regard to the music itself, the Vaccines sometimes sounded like a soup of influences without much signature flavor. During the show, I heard echoes of the Strokes, the Clash, Arctic Monkeys, and even Elton John (that “I Always Knew” riff sounds an awful lot like “Crocodile Rock”). When the music cohered, though, the show caught fire—such as when the crowd jumped along to the punchy, youthful “Teenage Icon.” Young played a beautiful, acoustic version of “No Hope” near the show’s end.
In hindsight, the Vaccines might be so used to playing bigger stages that the show didn’t feel as intimate as it could have. I would have welcomed more banter and fewer theatrics—though Young did make fans chuckle when he noted that Minnesota was “quite brutal in January.” After playing “Melody Calling,” a memory struck him. “I wrote some of that song outside this building,” he said, seeming almost surprised to make the connection.
The Vaccines could have been a bit better. As they move forward, they’ll have to keep forging their own sound, not mashing together Ramones and Strokes licks. However, the approximately 400 people at their show were lucky to be there. They heard ballads, hits, and more at a show that fans would’ve flooded elsewhere.
Just days after announcing their now-effective break-up, Stereo Confession opened for the Vaccines. During their eight-song set, the local surf rock band sounded less “Beach Boys” than ever before; lead singer Max Timander leaned into the music’s more punk side, roaring lyrics and eventually ripping the strings off his guitar. Árni Árnason, the Vaccines’s bassist, nodded from offstage during strong performances of “Memory Lanes” and “Getting Out.”
If newer song “Fright Night” was any indication, Stereo Confession were headed in a more intense direction anyway. (Timander introduced “Fright Night” with some unassuming snark: “This is a new one, the last new one, and you’re never going to hear it again.”) On “Video Games,” the sound mix shoveled electric guitars on top of the band’s cute “oohs” and tambourine hits; I actually preferred the more aggressive version to the lighter ones I’ve heard before.
Even so, any direction the band might have pursued won’t come to fruition. In Stereo Confession’s last few minutes on stage, Timander dedicated “Sick” to his former bandmate: “I co-wrote [this song] with my best friend, Jordan Blevins…we started this band five years ago, so it seems like this one should go out to him.” At the end, Timander simply said, “Goodbye.”
Cecilia Johnson is studying English and Spanish at Hamline University. Her favorite things include linguistics, Jeremy Hawkins’s The Last Days of Video, and travel stories.
Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
Blow It Up
(All Afternoon) In Love
Give Me A Sign
Post Break-Up Sex
I Always Knew
If You Wanna
All In White