Kurt Vile– St. James Church, London
(April 12, 2014)
I first heard about Kurt Vile from his brother Paul, who approached our campsite at SASQUATCH 2012, selling his own kick-ass t-shirt design (see pic below). Paul was a very cool dude, and I remembered Sara and I (both from Philly) enjoying a lil’ chat with him about the “City of Brotherly Love” and all the things we miss. Further discussion let me to find out that their younger sister actually went to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with my best friend Amanda. SMALL WORD. Looking back on that Sasquatch 2012 t-shirt, I am thinking….DAAAAAAAMN, what a siiiiiiiiiick line-up that year. I can’t believe it never sold out! That festival still remains to be one of my FAVORITE MUSIC experiences of ALL TIME (hands down). Mad props to the cool peeps (Kyle, Colin, Nick, Ben, Sara, Kenzie, Maria, Phil, Pat, Lucas) that made it so memorable. That’s one festival I am going to commit to as an annual tradition once I built my nest up in Northern California.
Although I was too late to catch Kurt Vile at Sasquatch, I took his brother Paul’s advice and made sure to check out his tunes when I got home. WELL, thank gosh I TOOK THAT ADVICE because Kurt Vile’s 2011 ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo‘ became on of my favorite albums of the summer, and I could not stop listening on repeat. It also happens to be the album that launched his career and made him a household name. Luckily, I saw that Kurt Vile and the Violators were playing at the Forum in Dec in London (the city I had just moved to at the time), and I made sure to snag tickets before they sold out. See live videos below.
One of the early songs in the set that night was Jesus Fever, a favorite from Smoke Ring for My Halo, and the intro line always makes me laugh: “I packed my suitcase with myself, but I’m already gone.” Soon after was Peeping Tomboy, an anthem of seeming contradictions that makes me smile time I hear it: “I don’t wanna change, but I don’t wanna stay the same…I wanna go but I’m running…I wanna work but I don’t wanna sit around…All day frowning.” Then came Baby’s Arms, a love song “Kurt Vile” style:
“I get sick of just about everyone
And I hide in my baby’s arms
Hide in my baby’s arms
‘Cause except for her you know…” (Slayed)
Following up this sweet song was Freak Train “YEAH YEAH YEAH,” and it surely got everyone up and rowdy. Such a siiiiick set already, and Kurt STEALS THE SHOW by surprising us with a cover of Bob Dylan‘s Knocking On Heaven’s Door for the encore. UNREAL!
Although I do enjoy being violated by The Violators, I must admit that I prefer Kurt Vile‘s music when he’s flying solo. Just over a year after that Kurt Violator and The Violator‘s gig in London, I saw Kurt Vile while on a solo tour around Europe. At that point he had already become a music LEGEND and music motivator for those scrappy musicians in the Philly music scene trying to make their “big break.” On this solo tour, I caught Kurt at St. James Church in London the night before Easter Sunday (only he has that kinda pull), and I actually felt pretty “holy,” with music being a sort of devout religion for me and all. I was lucky enough to snag a seat in the front pew for that show, and was utterly captivated by the rustic acoustic vibe of the night. It really showcased Kurt’s talent as an adroit guitar player and unique lyricist. My eyebrows were doing a lil’ dance the whole time as I was trying to follow his fingers. Haha. In comparison to his set with the Violators, this solo gig better captures his raw, lyrical style and his intricate finger-picking of the guitar and BANJO. Apparently the banjo was the first instrument that Kurt ever picked up (a gift from his dad), and he sure went to town on it (see video below). This helps explain why his finger-plucking of the guitar is so good! The entire set (Dead Alive, Ghost town, It’s Alright, Girl Called Alex, Laughing Stock, Smoke Ring for My Halo, Jesus Fever, Goldtone, Wakin on a Pretty Day, Baby’s Arms), and I can only thank Kurt for my pre-Easter resurrection.
One of the first songs of his set was Dead/Alive, and older gem that I never before heard live, but one that I kept smiling at when listening closely to the lyrics:
“You’re telling me a good man is hard to find
Well what are you blind?
Well never mind let’s try and have a good time..”
I really enjoyed how the chords get all temperamental in sync with the lyrics: “You’re telling me a good man is hard to find, What was that? You better rewind…” (haha, I love it)
Next up was Goldtone, one of my favorites from Kurt Vile’s newest album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze. It makes me feel all pensive and completely normal if I just want to hibernate all day in search of my “gold tones”:
“In the night when all hibernates I stay awake
Searching the deep, dark depths of my soul tone
Following this favorite was another favorite, Smoke Ring for My Halo, and the strumming in stride with his lyrics was enough to soothe the soul:
“Smoke ring for my halo
Angel, demon, human
Over and over…Think I can see it now…. YEAH.” xxx
The acoustic version of this track has a certain organic vibe that I really enjoy. Just Kurt and his guitar. That’s all I need. Same with Waking on a Pretty Daze, another favorite from that album:
“Wakin on a pretty day
Don’t know why I ever go away
It’s hard to explain
My love in this daze..”
The tempo is perfect for a chill, lazy day when you wanna live low, “lackadaisically so…” (love his words) x
Kurt saves one of the best for last: an encore of Baby’s Arms with Pall Jenkins (his opening act) adding some interesting sounds from the saw. Kurt doesn’t have many “love songs,” but of the ones he has, this one stands out above the rest:
“There has been but one true love…In my baby’s arms…Cause except for her…There’s just ain’t nothing to latch on to.”
I really wanted to meet Kurt after the show, but there was a huge swarm of crazy fans and I wasn’t sure where to cut in. I tried to get him to sign his brother Paul’s Sasquatch t-shirt, of which he shouted “Jelloman!” when he saw it. (Paul later told me that he had been making videos about touring festivals, selling his own shirts and jelloshots under that name.) Fortunately, I was able to snag a quick photo (see below) with Kurt before he had to go, and at least could come to the rescue when he asked the crowd if anyone had a piece of gum. “Bubble or mint?!”, I ask, and he so non-nonchalantly chooses mint. I knew I stocked my bag with gum for a reason. This isn’t “amateur hour,” as my sister would say. DUH. 😉
CAN’T WAIT TO SEE KURT AGAIN AT GREEN MAN in AUGUST 2014!!
Smoke Ring for My Halo:
(Kurt Vile on Bango!):
Jesus Fever (acoustic):
Wakin on Pretty Day:
Baby’s Arms (acoustic):
Kurt Vile– The Forum, London
(Dec 6, 2012)
Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover):