Vacationer, as chill as ever, conquers lands unknown at Haddon Lake Park

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Vacationer | photo by Joseph Bloss
Vacationer at Haddon Lake Park | photo by Joseph Bloss

Although I had never seen Vacationer perform live before Wednesday night, I am no stranger to their ultra chill summer tunes. “The Wild Life” has been my absolute jam for a couple of years now, and I can vibe with just about any song that comes from Philly music mainstay Kenny Vasoli and his friends in Vacationer.

But my familiarity with the headline act at Wednesday’s installment of the Sundown Music Series at Haddon Lake Park actually made me an outlier. Sure, I’m no Vacationer superfan (there were a few in attendance, however), but compared to maybe 60 percent of the audience, you would have thought I was. A decent chunk of the crowd seemed to be on the older side, most likely loyal patrons who attend each installment of the concert series run by Camden County. For example, I overheard the gentleman sitting next to me that he attends public series like this all over the state. Even the event’s host, who said he’s been on the job for 13 or 14 years now, revealed he wasn’t familiar with Vacationer until sound check that evening. These observations are not to fault the audience, but rather commend the performer.

Playing for a crowd that is new to your music isn’t the easiest of tasks, but Vacationer sure made it seem so. From the moment they started off with my personal fav “In The Grass,” to the end of their set, Vacationer was able to command the unevenly dispersed crowd. Vasoli embraced the unfamiliar yet relaxed atmosphere with a humorous approach, something that even after seeing him just one time I can tell is not a rarity. After playing the evening’s third track “Glimpse,” off Vacationer’s 2014 sophomore LP Relief, Vasoli asked the crowd to get up and dance. He quickly remarked after that he was only kidding — but that he wasn’t “disinviting” anyone from getting on their feet.

Vacationer at Haddon Lake Park | photo by Joseph Bloss
Vacationer at Haddon Lake Park | photo by Joseph Bloss

Any awkwardness left in the air was erased (or maybe intensified) by the self-described “mild level of chillness” Vasoli boasted his tunes carry. On what Vasoli called a “honey of a night,” there was a surplus of chill-themed one-liners. “Here’s one more line on the chill coaster,” Vasoli said before playing subtle tune “Farther,” off the band’s 2012 debut Gone. After the joyous “Onward & Upward,” he shared the fact that the band is all the way from “Chilladephia, Pennsylvania.” Before ending with “Fresh,” Vasoli told us he had “one more from the chill archive,” namely Gone’s title track.

The claims of chillness are not wrong. In all seriousness, Vacationer’s summery dream-pop sound was the just the coolant needed on a warm June evening like Wednesday night. “There’s a paradise waiting in for us in summertime,” promises Vasoli in Relief’s “Paradise Waiting.” Well, tonight Vacationer was the one who provided the paradise. I expected an enjoyable evening, but what I got was much more than enjoyable. Time seemed to almost stop, as I forgot I was sitting on a horribly uncomfortable bench. Before i knew it, Vacationer was able to crank out 19 different numbers, a feat Vasoli credited to the shorter length of Vacationer’s songs. I genuinely appreciated a set of considerable length, something fairly uncommon for relatively young bands with a less expansive discography.

Odds are that the 19-song treat was the first and last Vacationer experience for more than half of those in attendance — and that’s ok. What’s important is that the band made the most of their time with these kind listeners. Vasoli admitted he and the band didn’t know what to expect coming into this type of environment, and thanked the crowd for being so “large.” As the night came to a close and the two parties went their separate ways, Vasoli uttered his parting words, seemingly admitting the fact that while the people willingly endured a lovely (and not to mention free of charge) evening, this was not a park full of people he would see again. And of course, his final remark included his favorite “c” word.

“Have an amazing rest of the summer and a chill, relaxed life.”

Setlist:
In The Grass
Shining
Glimpse
Summer End
Great Love
Jesus (Dom cover)
Trip
Stay
Paradise Waiting
Warmer
Farther
Onward & Upward
Dreamlike
Everybody Knows
Good As New
The Wild Life

Encore (although Vacationer skipped going through the motions and never left the stage):
Be With You
Gone
Fresh

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