My excitement about the Kurt Vile show was tempered by my trepidation at all things that happen at a BNM show (his latest album won Pitchfork’s Best New Music designation). Yeah the buzz was great on this album, which is how I ended up buying the excellent Wakin on a Pretty Daze on vinyl and playing it non-stop. Pretty Daze combines laconic easy-paced songwriting in the vein of Neil Young with guitar playing that’s about as close to shredding as a chill guy from Philadelphia gets. But that same good buzz threatened to fill the room at the Echoplex with dilettantes likely to make me pissy as hell.
You know what I mean. There are the structural flaws of the Echoplex like terrible sightlines, Hollywood drink prices ($9 beer) and bathroom attendants. (Isn’t the ladies’ room just about the last place you’d want to buy a pack of mints?). Then there are the so-called fans who talk, make out or dry hump (as my colorful show buddy put it) while standing three feet from the stage the entire show. After bearing witness to some of the anticipated dry-humping during opener the Fresh and Onlys' well-fogged in and very droney, but good set, I ducked outside to escape the fog for the relative fresh air of the smokers’ patio outside between sets.
Kurt Vile took the stage dressed in the same white-white jeans, white shirt, white jacket and white Converse he sports in his “Never Run Away” video and opened with “Wakin on a Pretty Day.” He followed with “KV Crimes,” the second track from Wakin on a Pretty Daze. Vile mumbles his lyrics and his long metalhead locks obscure his face, but these outward gestures do nothing to distance him from the audience. Throughout the set the experience of seeing Vile play live was one of being lured in ever closer. He seemed to be backed by at least a dozen guitarists on stage with him, but really I think there were only three. The audience was a stoked, but reverent crowd. They certainly welcomed it when he played the hits, but there was awed appreciation throughout the set. On “Jesus Fever” from his previous album Smoke Ring For My Halo Vile was head bopping and toe-tapping and the crowd just about lost their collective minds in approval. “Peeping Tom” he played solo on acoustic guitar, creating a very intimate moment with the more than seven hundred in the room. From there he went into a full band vibing heavy, the romantics in our midst having presumably filtered to the back of the venue. After the encores, Vile left the stage saying, “You’ve been a beautiful audience, see you in the parking lot.”
More photos after the jump.