Wednesday was one of my first encounters with Kurt Vile, and indeed his first concert I’d attended. It was a strange show for two reasons; firstly, it was perhaps the strangest assortment of people I’ve ever seen at the one show, and secondly, I have never (ever) seen a room of full capacity stand completely silent for the most part of an hour. In other words, on Wednesday I was presented with my first glimpse of the fans, music and hairdo which comprise the musical persona of Kurt Vile.
Patrons failed to clear The Corner Hotel’s band room following support band Early Woman’s set. Upon entering the packed out space, one was met by the sight of old rockers standing by 20-something rockabillies; their backs turned to the urban hipsters, and everybody’s backs turned to the few bogans who turned up for whatever reason. And yes, there was a strong presence of ‘The Rolling Stones 1970-something U.S.A. Tour’ shirts in the room.
Vile’s performance signified exactly why nobody wanted to leave the band room between his set and the support acts. There was a general feeling of entrancement from the moment Vile and his band took to the stage. Mainly playing tracks from his most recent albums Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze and Smoke Ring For My Halo, Kurt Vile and the Violators delivered their brand of Americana-folk-rock to a mostly still and silent reception – with the sold out audience completely transfixed on everything Vile did. Tracks like Wakin’ On A Pretty Day and KV Crimes conveyed Vile’s niche for simplistic chord progressions varnished by tender yet intricate guitar parts and lyrical beauty.
Vile and his guitarist Jesse Trbovich changed guitars almost every song. And by ‘changed’ I don’t mean swapped; there was a side-stage arsenal of what seemed like a dozen electric and acoustic guitars. It felt as though the stars had aligned when for the second song, Vile and Trbovich yielded identical sunburst Jazzmasters which they played in pleasant unison. The distorted guitar solos of Vile and Trbovich led to the simplistic yet solid 4-chord songs becoming transcendent of typical folk rock, with Vile’s soothing voice adding further depth to each beautiful song.
The Violators left the stage at intervals throughout the set, leaving Vile alone with his acoustic guitar(s). His frizzy, tangled locks cloaked his face as he fingerpicked sublime renditions of Peeping Tomboy and He’s Alright; during which not a single note was missed on guitar nor vocals. Scanning the audience for signs of noise or movement, there was very little; the aged rockers, rockabillies, and hipsters were absorbed. Needless to say, the songs that Vile performed solo were received with massive applause from the audience.
Wednesday served as proof that Kurt Vile is a musician whose work is personal, articulate and captivating to anybody watching; regardless of one’s familiarity with his songs. His set, which exceeded an hour in length, allowed insight for newbies like me into the fans, music and hairdo which comprise the enigmatic, freewheelin’ Kurt Vile.