Oooh it was set to be a good night, even on paper. Steve Gunn – Kurt Vile’s buddy and extra Violator on this tour – filled an early, early set with layered, rich indie-blues – haven’t heard a lot of that, these days. And none so good. Guitar and voice gave a dusty hug to the muttering crowd.
Then San Francisco’s Fresh & Onlys arrived, lookin’ like each of them – singer/guitarist Tim Cohen, guitarist Wymond Miles, bassist Shayde Sartin and drummer Kyle Gibson – belonged in different bands from different genres, but instead united’ to play reverb-heavy poprock, with just enough dreamy sunshine and is-it-just-me-or-does-anyone-else-hear-a-tiny-bit-of-new-wave? All good, check. A highlight? “Waterfall”, during which another dude with weird hair, Mr. Kurt Vile, hopped up and took over the ooh-oooh-ooohs. That eventually lead to a Wymo guitar freakout during last track “Foolish Person”? Which rocked. But verily! There was even more ahead!
More of a head indeed. Kurt Vile sloped back onto the Biltmore stage, bowed head, face obscured by curls and set off on the dusty trail of what Kurt Vile does best: ambling, textured, slowmo guitar rock. Too clever for the chronic set, too slack to be Sonic Youth, KV inhabits a chilled in-between space. Kurt’s songs sound like they emanate from a body lying on a tattered couch, chewing his words into a warm, dusky night. Yet rather than fizzle out, there’s sadness and self-reflection in the smoke ring for his bong hit. Opener “Wakin on a Pretty Day” (the almost-title of his excellent new album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, produced by John Agnello) set the tone: “To be frank I’m fried/But I don’t mind/Yeah, yeah yeah…”
“KV Crimes”, also from WoaPD rolled on next, as did the album’s “Girl Called Alex”, “Shame Chamber” and ender “Was All Talk”. The Violators – Jesse Trbovich, Rob Laakso and new drummer Vince Nudo – provided the backbone. ‘Course the biggest crowd smiles and widest songs came from the also-awesomely-produced-by-Agnello Smoke Ring For My Halo: “Jesus Fever” and “Baby’s Arms” owned, “On Tour” and “Peeping Tom” stretched out. “Hunchback” and “Freaktrain” from Childish Prodigy ended the set before the encore. Songs don’t vary wildly in Vileland, but that’s fine – come prepared to pick away at little layers, and leave perfectly content.
At the aftershow party at the city’s veggie restaurant-cum-late-night-micro-bar, Vile happily bounced around in the light rain, riffing with me about summer tours and asking an old friend excitedly if she’d ever seen the Happy Mondays, which set him – and us – off singing “Wrote for Luck” and “Hallelujah” loud into the night. Clutching a special “Violator” cocktail, clowning around with the F&Os or dancing and singing along to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams’, Vile seemed perfectly content. “How are YOU?” he asked. And at the end of the night, when three of us huddled around his phone in the rain to watch Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” and all blurted out “So/Don’t/You/Get/Fresh/With me!” and laughed, the answer was clear. How am I? I”ve had a night in Vileland. I’m perfectly content. \m/