The last time Justin Young visited Worthy Farm, it was 2013 and he was closing the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night. Granted, that was as part of a menagerie of special guests brought on by Mumford & Sons to give their headline set some much-needed oomph, but hey, it still counts. Going by the reaction they receive on The Other Stage, however, he and his fellow Vaccines have good reason to believe they’ll be occupying a similar position sooner rather than later.
There’s something about The Vaccines that just works at a festival. Come rain or shine, hell or high water, they’re a buoy of effervescence and irresistible tunes to cling to, even at your most desperate and/or hungover. That’s very much the case today, as they take to the stage during the weekend’s first real downpour – the annual moment of mass doubt when everyone starts wondering if they wouldn’t have been better off staying at home and watching the iPlayer instead. Here is at least one compelling reason to brave the elements. “Glastonbury’s not scared of a little bit of rain, is it?” bellows Justin Young before the band charge headlong into the opening ‘Handsome’. “Because The Vaccines sure as shit are not!”
Decked out uniformly in white – right down to their guitars – it’s clear that The Vaccines are no longer simply a ‘plug in and play’ band; they strive to match the occasion by putting on a spectacle. The restless, energetic Young seems less like ‘Bloke who Sings’ and more like an actual, honest-to-goodness frontman, prowling the front of the stage during ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ and leading the crowd in an acoustic rendition of ‘No Hope’. In the shape of ‘Dream Lover’ and ‘All In White’, they have the big, dramatic moments to match, making a sodden field of people momentarily forget their grim surroundings and unite in song, three glorious minutes at a time. It’s clear that songs such as these are meant for stages bigger than this one.
The key moment, however, comes in the form of the snaking, Smiths-ian ‘Melody Calling’, a track which was inconspicuously snuck out on an overlooked EP, but which now sounds like the bridge between the Vaccines of old and this newer, more multifaceted iteration. It provides the context in which the likes of ‘Give Me a Sign’ – an ebullient, ostentatious pop song which blends elements of EDM, stadium-rock histrionics and the Radio 1 playlist – begins to make sense, even if most of the crowd aren’t necessarily familiar with it.
The elements are also working to their advantage: Young’s exhortation to “put a wetsuit on, come on, come on” might take on a new, very literal meaning during the first twenty minutes, but by the time they bring things to a close with a riotous ‘Norgaard’, the sun has crept out from behind the clouds, and everyone feels a bit more optimistic about the rest of the day. It’s a fortuitous development which serves as a handy metaphor for their entire performance. The Vaccines have beaten back the rain and saved the day. They’ve quite possibly won it, too.