Waiting for The Vaccines in Motherwell Concert Hall, I spot a teenager retrieve a travel shower gel bottle from her bum-bag and squeeze the contents into her mouth. Her wince tells me it’s probably vodka. The immediate crowd is pretty similarly aged, with some older folks and post-teen fans mixed in.
Californian cool-girl Jesse Jo Stark gets the crowd going with up-tempo tunes from her 2018 EP Dandelion, including ‘Breakfast with Lou’. Songs from the next support artist, Hatchie, remind me of the soundtrack to 10 Things I Hate About You. Stark and Hatchie both perform in front of a raised curtain, hiding The Vaccines sequinned logo. As the glitters occasionally catch the light, the crowd is reminded of the show to come, and howls for the band to start. The lighting gets warmer, and house plants and fake palm trees are revealed on stage.
The Vaccines’ wealth of experience, touring with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys and Red Hot Chili Peppers, shows. Their energy is infectious, and the crowd jumps with wild abandon as they play hit after hit. All four of their albums feature, as well as their November 2018 release ‘All My Friends Are Falling in Love’ – the song which lead singer Justin Hayward-Young credits for launching the tour. Their impressive setlist is a reminder of their musical journey, one which I shared with them through my teenage years. Some of my favourites from English Graffiti are overlooked, including ‘Want You So Bad’ and ‘Maybe I Could Hold You’, but it’s understandable why – to play anything slow would quash the energy radiating from the crowd and the band.
The Vaccines are at home on stage. Justin dad-dances, engaging crowd members in eye contact as he acts out the lyrics. Lead guitar Freddie Cowan reminds me of a teenage heartthrob, pouring all of his energy into smashing through the guitar-heavy setlist. Each song they play transports me back to the time I would listen to it on repeat. As they play ‘I Always Knew’, I’m in the backseat of my family car, driving across Europe. During ‘Wetsuit’, I’m sat in the kitchen of my first-year halls. Live, some of their overlooked tunes are brought to life – ‘No Hope’ belongs on the soundtrack to the Playstation 1 game Tony Hawk Pro Skater.
Justin mutters his thanks into the microphone – ‘we’ve never met, but you’ve treated us like old friends’. With that, I realise the experience is wrapped in pure nostalgia. In those moments, I’m fourteen years old again, jumping up and down in a disco, surrounded by energetic, sweaty bodies - none more so than the band themselves. Waiting for the taxi home and chatting excitedly in the backseat, I expect to find my Dad behind the steering wheel, eyeing me in the mirror for any trace of tipsiness. I felt a sudden, irrepressible urge to go home, storm up to my room and slam the door, proclaiming ‘it’s not a phase’. Nostalgic, wholesome, and fulfilling in equal measure; like Justin, I was left hoping that ‘everyday could be like today’.
The Vaccines performed at Motherwell Concert Hall on 30 January 2019.