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Bloc Party, The Vaccines, Oscar: My British Alt-Rock Party Night

Bloc Party at The Vogue!

Dateline: May 21, 2016 — Just woke up the morning after my first concert at The Vogue in 2½ years (see previous happy experience). At one of Indianapolis’ most well-known nightclubs in the heart of the Broad Ripple neighborhood, three catchy bands appeared on a single bill for an appallingly low price of $25. When I bought my ticket back in February, Bloc Party was the only reason and the only band on the bill. The Vaccines were added as co-billed headliners mere weeks before the main event. For the value and the all-around fantastic performances we got, I’m not complaining.

This was another tough experience for me as a card-carrying introvert who doesn’t interact or hear well in large crowds, one who doesn’t fare well when alone and outnumbered by happy couples and cliques, but it was worth the psychological and physical discomfort. I live-tweeted as a way of pushing through occasional bouts of boredom and isolation. Owning and sometimes poking fun at my loneliness is better than wallowing in it.

The festival of fabulousness progressed like so:

Oscar!

8:00 p.m.: Oscar

I’d never heard of him before, but in the studio Oscar Scheller is a one-man recording artist, like Owl City but with better guitars, less electronic gimmickry, and not yet sold out to commercial radio. I’d describe his sound as moodily pretty power-pop. After an EP called Beautiful Words and a few years of UK interviews, his first full-length album Cut and Paste was just released May 13th.

Oscar Scheller!

The complete setlist:

“Beautiful Words”
“Feel It Too”
“Good Things”
“Breaking My Phone”
“Be Good”
“Stay”
“Daffodil Days”
“Sometimes”

He’s young and, I’m guessing, still excitable by all this. When his set ended, he popped back onstage to take a quick photo of the crowd for his official Facebook page. I can see myself!

Photo by Oscar!

This photo by Oscar Scheller is the only third-party evidence in existence that I’ve ever been to the Vogue. This is much cooler than a selfie.

Oscar and his tour mates were out in about 35-40 minutes, but he had a table set up selling merchandise after the show. I made a point of saying hi and paying cash for a copy of Cut and Paste. Money cheerily spent.

In between sets the audience had time to watch roadies in action or to restock their personal alcohol supplies from the Vogue’s multiple drink stations. I can’t stand alcohol, so this left me to ponder my surroundings instead.

The Vaccines!

9:00 p.m.: The Vaccines

I’d also never heard of them before they were added to the bill. I pay only intermittent attention to today’s new acts, and not everything penetrates my social circles or radio channel-flipping. When I’d first heard they were added, the first song I sampled on YouTube, “America Calling”, left no impression on me. I decided to hold off on further research till after the show.

Said show was quite the barn-burner, with singer/guitarist Justin Young doing his best to bring animated enthusiasm and theatricality to a Hoosier audience that sometimes doesn’t dance much. With all instruments cranked up to 11 in person, they sounded much better live than on my PC headphones.

The complete setlist, I think:

“Handsome”
“Teenage Icon”
“Dream Lover”
“Wetsuit”
“Minimal Affection”
“Bad Mood”
“Post Break-Up Sex”
“America Calling”
“Wreckin’ Bar”
“20/20”
“I Always Knew”
“If You Wanna”
“Norgaard”

The dance floor was more crowded during their closing numbers than at any other point of the night. Halfway through, I suddenly found my view 100% blocked. I’m six feet tall and used to being the tallest obstacle in any given group, so this was surreal cosmic irony.

Thankfully/sadly, most of the tall guys disappeared by the time Bloc Party took the stage. Their loss.

As the Vaccines left the stage after their set, I felt a quick sting on my arm. I thought, “Did…did someone just try to interact with me?” I looked down and realized I’d just been hit by a guitar pick one of their members threw into the crowd. Free souvenir!

Vaccines Guitar Pick!

If they become Top-40 sensations someday, I can auction this for eleventy billion dollars and pay off our house. Thanks, Vaccines!

Bloc Party!

10:20 p.m.: Bloc Party

No one I know in person has ever heard of them. Story of my musical tastes, 1989-present.

I’d seen their name here and there in various articles and best-of lists, but hadn’t heard them till I took a chance on a used copy of their second album, 2007’s A Weekend in the City, which I found on one of our Chicago trips. Fierce, catchy, versatile, lyrically inventive, it grabbed hold of me and went into heavy rotation in my car for a while. I don’t have all their albums yet, but I expect to rectify that in short order.

Their fourth album Four lost a little nuance in favor of a heavier, more crushing guitar sound on several tracks, but their fifth, latest album Hymns tried too hard to take things in every imaginable opposite direction. They replaced their bassist and drummer, they muted the guitars in favor of more electronic experimentation (usually a source of dread for me — cf. past attempts by Bob Mould and John Mellencamp), and the songwriting of bandleader Kele Okereke focused on unusually spiritual contemplation about life, belief, and Creation. In interviews he’s denied this signifies any sort of attempt at overhauling Christian rock, but I’d be on the front row at full attention if it were.

Bloc Party!

Despite the shakeup in their lineup, nothing in their performance seemed out-of-sync or contentious. New bassist Justin Harris had one corner full of instruments to himself, switching to glockenspiel for “Waiting for the 7:18” (one of my favorite Weekend tracks) and saxophone for “Mercury”. I miss old drummer Matt Tong (I’ve watched that video intro for “Hunting for Witches” again and again and again), but new drummer Louise Bartle kept things barrelling along just fine, though I’m convinced the cymbals on “Witches” were one of a few prerecorded bits I caught throughout their set. On the other end of the stage, reigning guitarist Russell Lissack hid from all my attempts at including him in photos. Hmph.

The complete setlist:

“Virtue”
“Hunting for Witches”
“Positive Tension”
“Mercury”
“Waiting for the 7:18”
“Song for Clay (Disappear Here)”
“Banquet”
“Two More Years”
“So Real”
“Octopus”
“So He Begins to Lie”
“The Love Within”

Encore:

“My True Name”
“Like Eating Glass”
“Ratchet”
“Helicopter”

They ended promptly at 11:30 to rousing applause. I bought merchandise, fled to escape the sensory overload and the post-show social discussion groups, took ibuprofen after standing and occasionally bouncing in the same six square feet for 4½ hours, turned on the fan to drown out the temporary tinnitus, and crashed till late this morning. I didn’t really learn any important lesson about how to mingle with a crowd, but the injuries were worth the aural, out-of-the-house experience.

Bloc Party!

The all-new all-different Bloc Party thanks you for coming.

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About Randall A. Golden
Hoosier since birth, geek since age 6, father at 22, Christian at 30; launched Midlife Crisis Crossover at 39. Full-time service rep; part-time internet contributor; former message board admin; inhabits Twitter as @RandallGolden. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of any other corporation, being, or party line.

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