The Vaccines at Leas Cliff Hall, 13/02/24

The indie darlings bring a night of sing-alongs and nostalgia to the Folkestone seaside.

When they first made their arrival in 2011, The Vaccines were boldly labelled the saviours of the indie scene. Offering up a high-energy garage pop antidote to the autotuned, oversaturated sounds then dominating the charts, the four-piece swiftly ascended to UK festival staples with a combination of thoughtful songwriting and enormous pop hooks.

Following five consecutive Top 5 albums, the Londoners kickstarted 2024 with the release of their euphoric sixth effort, Pick Up Full Of Pink Carnations. Staying true to the boisterous, uplifting pop songwriting that led them into the hearts of many, it marked their first album following the departure of founding guitarist Freddie Cowan, with rhythm guitarist Timothy Lanham stepping up to lead duties for the band’s extensive run of UK and Europe shows.

Tonight, that run made a stop in the unassuming seaside town of Folkestone; a clear view of Calais across the water from outside the venue. Inside, an array of pink flowers is lined along the front of a drum platform, perched atop mic stands, and adorning a bass amp. 

Lights surging, the band stride onstage to the piano line of Wings’ ‘Live and Let Die’, and the four-piece barrel straight into the bookends of their career. Frontman Justin Hayward-Young’s trademark swagger was in full force as he waltzed across the stage throughout 2023 single ‘Love To Walk Away’, and by the time the band have powered through the urgent 80-second romp of 2010 debut ‘Wrekin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ – the room is wide awake.

With a career-spanning setlist, the nostalgia-ridden effervescent pop of their latest release takes centre stage. From breezy lead single ‘Heartbreak Kid’ to the melancholic pulse of ‘Discount De Kooning (Last One Standing)’ and the wistful ‘The Dreamer’, the band’s newest era is showcased with effortless confidence and charisma. Hayward-Young pivoting between donning his guitar and menacingly lunging towards the crowd whilst pacing the stage with microphone in hand, his performance is as energetic as it is enigmatic, the crowd lapping up every moment.

Of course, though, it’s the hard-hitters that get the most enthusiastic response of the evening, with atmospheric ‘Wetsuit’, three-minute belter ‘Teenage Icon’, and ode to growing up ‘No Hope’ bringing some of the biggest singalongs. A back-to-back run of fan-favourites ‘I Always Knew’, ‘If You Wanna’, and ‘All in White’ closes out the main set, with bodies making their way onto shoulders and shirts being removed and waved around as if it were a sunny Saturday afternoon at Reading Festival.

Returning to the stage for an encore, Hayward-Young’s grin is plastered across his sweat-soaked face as he expresses his gratitude to the Kent crowd.

“We’ve been doing this a long time now, and the longer we do it the more thankful we feel.”

Rounding out the night with a raucous sing-along of 2018 stand-alone single ‘All My Friends Are Falling In Love’, a buzz of excitement reverberates around the room. A night of non-stop hits, each moment proving why the four-piece have continually avoided the indie landfill fate of many of their peers, The Vaccines remain a force to be reckoned with in the British live arena.

The Vaccines UK tour continues until 23 February. Find tickets here.

Photo credits: Maddy Howell