Hailing from Philadelphia, Kurt Vile and his Violators swooned and serenaded the crowd at Tuesday night’s sold out show at The Social. Before we got to enjoy the curls and craft of Vile and his band, we were treated to the likes of Luke Roberts, a Nashville born and raised folk singer. Now, there’s no question as to why Kurt Vile chose this man as his opener, the two could be brothers in sound. Vile even recorded on Roberts’ “Silver Chain”, providing backup vocals and added his irrefutable banjo skills. Roberts and his band delighted us with humble blues and that authentic Tennessee sound. We wished for more lovesick tunes but settled for another whiskey as we awaited the band of the hour.
As the lights dimmed and the band walked on stage, that undeniable pre-show giddiness came over me. The crowd, dudes and girls alike, fueled with hair envy and cheap drinks, swayed melodically back and forth to the tunes of his best LP’s. Each new song featured a different guitar as Vile switched back and forth from acoustic to electric and of course, some good ole’ banjo.
At 14, little Kurt Vile received his first instrument, a banjo from his dad; from that day forward, he hasn’t stopped creating music. Vile soon mastered the banjo whose free-form, Appalachian vibes became a staple of the folk-rock sound of the band, especially on Vile’s seventh studio album, b’lieve i’m goin down… With “I’m an Outlaw” playing throughout the room of bobbing heads and ‘YEW’s!’, it was like we were all lifted out of the Social and brought to sprawling summer fields in the middle of Tennessee. (Maybe that’s because I first saw Vile outside during Bonnaroo, probably biased.) Regardless of season, his unique voice, which was displayed through solos during songs like, “Stand Inside” or jams with his four-piece band like, “Freak Train”, allowed us to truly experience Vile and the Violators at their wildest.
While strings and Vile’s voice are the foundation of the music, Kurt’s band, the Violators, are just as solid. The Violators are comprised of Jesse Trbovich on the bass, guitar, and occasionally saxophone, Rob Laakso on guitar/bass, and Kyle Spence on the drums. Equipped with their own PA system and sound guy, the band achieves a unique sound unlike most concert experiences. With minimal, sweet, awkward interjections, Kurt Vile keeps his talking to a minimum providing the audience with a soft yet, compelling performance. You can’t help but stare at the head of hair before you singing these love songs and wonder, how the fuck do you learn to play like this guy?? Well, of course, his early years spent working on his craft, and not to mention the founding and recording of an album with the War on Drugs, (which he founded with still frontman Adam Granduciel,) probably didn’t hurt. (Not saying I’m happy he left…but then “That’s Life, tho…(almost hate to say)” came on, so…)
As the whiskey seeps in, the confidence to push forward towards the stage kicks in. Unapologetic of my movements, it’s like happening upon Jesus in Adidas, and I dig it. As all of us gaze up at him, it’s just smiles across everyone’s faces. This isn’t a concert for moshing. Not a concert for trying to mosh then getting knocked on your ass (me). This was a concert in its purest of forms; a room filled with people with admiration for skillful guitar playing, unique vocals and lyrics which make you remember your first crush in high school. The angsty teen in all of us was safely sequestered and only love circled the room now.
LIVE REVIEW: Kurt Vile and The Violators w/ Luke Roberts by Gem Martin
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