Photographs by Neil Van.
On a hot and sticky Thursday evening in Toronto, fans of London, England’s The Vaccines waited patiently in line to get inside and out of the heat. Relief was temporary as The Mod Club Theatre was transformed into a rocking dance party. Sweat and heat were just as familiar as catchy guitar licks and crowd sing-alongs by the end of the night.
Local band Shy Kids kicked the evening off with a bang. The five piece band brought energy and some groovy rock tunes to the energetic crowd. A great opening band to kick the night off. They were energetic, talented and really embraced the ecstatic audience that had turned up for the gig. The frontman Walter Woodman has a great persona on-stage. Engaging with the audience between songs and performing loose and quirky theatrics as he belted out the lyrics. For one song, bass player Simon Lukasewich (Most Serene Republic) put down the bass and picked up the violin. The audience swayed their hands along with the melody of the violin-laden song. They truly had a fairly diverse mix of styles and sounds within their set. I was thoroughly impressed by them and feel that any fans of Animal Collective will enjoy their work. It wasn’t just me that was impressed either, the crowd was responding incredibly to their music. It’s a pretty special thing when an opening band can come in and get the crowd that’s waiting for the main act moving and excited. It’s a rare occurrence, especially when the band is relatively unknown. These guys are worth keeping an eye on, all the pieces of the puzzle are there, and with the right opportunity they could become the next buzz band.
The venue was getting pretty packed as the temperatures inside the Mod Club started to climb. The temperature would only get hotter and hotter as The Vaccines took the stage. The crowd (after eager anticipation) completely let loose for the band. They opened with Handsome a single off their latest release English Graffiti, followed up by the song Teenage Icon from their second LP Come of Age. The audience was already on fire, belting out the chorus loud and enthusiastically along with lead singer Justin Young. It was pretty clear after two songs that this wasn’t your average weeknight audience. People were jumping, dancing and throwing their hands up right away. There was no courting process like you experience at some shows. This crowd was ready to party, and party they did.
They moved things along with the songs Ghost Town, Dream Lover and one of the bigger hits with the crowd on this particular evening, Wetsuit. Justin even stepped back during the intro of the song and let the crowd sing the lines “we all got older, breakneck speed. Slow it down, go easy on me”. By far one of the best songs of the night, the crowd belted out nearly every line of the song in unison. They moved things along by playing the songs Minimal Affection (a personal favourite from English Graffiti), A Lack of Understanding, Wolf Pack and Bad Mood.
Young then took a moment to interact with the audience before the next song. A fan near the front informed him that she had a “lady boner” for them, which caught him off guard as he chuckled and quipped “oh Toronto” and then said “this one’s for you then” as they broke into one of their biggest hits, Post Break Up Sex. Again the crowd response was huge, everyone singing loud and dancing shoulder to shoulder. Sweat running down their eyebrows and arms as they were right there with the band on every song. They then slowed things down a bit (probably necessary for all parties to get a bit of rest) with the songs (All Afternoon) In Love and Melody Calling.
The slight rest didn’t last very long as they played the opening track from their debut LP What Did You Expect From The Vaccines, Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra). The crowd again was insane during this song. Screaming out “ra ra ra” and “hey hey hey” at the appropriate times while jumping and dancing like maniacs to the high tempo song. They followed up with another energetic song, 20/20 from English Graffiti. Next they played another huge sing-along I Always Knew, before breaking into the song If You Wanna, arguably the biggest song of the night. The audience sang the chorus of “If you wanna come back it’s alright, it’s alright” deafeningly loud. Hands were up, synchronized clapping came into play and the whole crowd within view was dancing and singing along. They finished the main set with the final song from their debut LP, Family Friend.
The crowd enthusiastically pleaded for the encore briefly before Justin Young graced the stage alone with his acoustic guitar. He opened the encore with a solo acoustic rendition of the opening track from Come of Age, No Hope. Unsurprisingly at this point, the crowd sang nearly every lyric along with Young, albeit less energetic due to the rendition of the song. The band reappeared on stage to play the final two songs of the night. First came another track from their debut LP, All in White. They closed the evening out with yet another track from that album, the song Norgaard. The high tempo song forced the audience to use up their last bit of energy. Dancing and singing along once again, sweaty people insulated by more sweaty people. The place was roasting by the end.
Here’s my personal take on the evening. It was an absolute blast start to finish. Every song was massive. The crowd fueled the band, the band fueled the crowd. The perfect endless cycle for an incredible concert. Every song was sung loudly to, danced to and passionately enjoyed by all patrons in the Mod Club. I have seen a lot of concerts over the years, but this was definitely one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, certainly the best club show I’ve ever seen. There was something special about the audience, the energy was incredible. Justin Young at one point said that this was their “sixth time playing in Toronto” and that this was “the best show we’ve played here”. I have to agree with that sentiment. This was my third time seeing them and this time was by far the best. I was soaked in sweat, nearly lost my voice and completely exhausted all the rock n’ roll dance moves in my repertoire. The entire crowd was ecstatic. Anyone who was at this show knows exactly what I mean. It’s almost impossible to accurately convey in words the euphoric experience this gig was. It was the kind of show that you wish everyone you knew was at, just so you could talk about it to someone who “gets it”. I hope the next time The Vaccines come to town, the crowd can repeat the incredible energy they had for this gig. I can guarantee you one thing though, I won’t be missing it.