Vines : New York Mercury Lounge

They're about to become extremely important...

Barely out of the starting gate and already The Vines‘ reputation precedes them, mainly thanks to the UK’s early enthusiam. Their New York debut is crammed with industry baldies and savvy next-big-thing watchers as eager to witness the band’s rumoured self-destructive tendencies as they are to see whether or not The Vines‘ kinetic psychedelic grunge-pop deserves the hype it’s been generating. No one leaves disappointed, on either count.

Craig Nichols’ notorious reluctance to get onstage (he’s locked himself in dressing rooms rather than do so) doesn’t obstruct proceedings, and when The Vines cut through the crowd to silently take the stage they’re dead on time. At first, they don’t appear particularly volatile or, let’s face it, terribly exciting. They burn though ‘Highly Evolved’ and ‘Sunshinin” with maximum volume but minimum enthusiasm, Craig scowling from behind his enviably perfect rock’n’roll haircut like he’d rather be under his bed. Still, his magnetism is such that it’s difficult to watch or even notice any of the other band members, who seem to watch him carefully for cues. Their splendid cover of Outkast‘s ‘Ms Jackson’ unfolds with a sober, unexpected sadness, but it isn’t until the hyperactive vitriol of ‘Outtathaway!’ – when Nichols’ executes equipment-threatening kicks and his voice builds to a bristling rasp – that they hit their stride. Then, it’s rapid-fire revelation – the spine-tingling “aahs” of ‘Country Yard’ practically levitating the room, ‘Factory’s hook-laden charm inciting fits of spontaneous dancing, ‘Mary Jane’ unfolding dizzily like an unexpected mountaintop vista and ‘Get Free’ crashing around like an angry drunk. Every song both reveals and transcends its influences, elasticating the legacy of Nirvana and the Beatles into thrillingly unforseen shapes. There’s nothing particularly challenging or revolutionary about The Vines‘ inspired take on rock history, but the breadth of their passion is incredibly gripping. Highly evolved, indeed.

Then, suddenly, it’s over. As the lysergic feedback drone of ‘1969’ echoes around him, Nichols mumbles “thank you… that was shit…” and disappears. The crowd stares dumbly at the stage, so bewildered by the abrupt ending they don’t even applaud. After the house lights come up, they hoot and chant for more, but it’s too late. The Vines are gone. Whether it was junk food burnout or mere petulance that prompted Craig’s exit, we may never know. Although there is some concern that the band may not be up to the arduous touring and promotion that lies in front of them (they’ve just announced another slew of US dates and TV appearances), there’s also a real sense that The Vines are determined and talented enough to overcome any stumbling blocks. Craig’s mercurial tendencies and downright weird personality glitches only increase the sense that we’ve just seen something truly fleeting, purgative and emotionally intense – precisely what music should be. Tonight, The Vines leave us hungry for more – more music, more explanation, more of that wondrous strange pleasure their music imparts. Their set was unfairly short and slightly awkward, but they made their point. We’ll be hearing more from and about them, very soon. They’re about to become extremely important.

April Long