Stopping by Glasgow on the European leg of their tour, Kurt Vile and The Violators brought a unique slacker rock sound to the O2 ABC stage. Accompanied by Vile’s icon- ic head of hair and nasally-drowsy vocals, the performance was mainly sourced from songs off his latest stu- dio album b’lieve i’m goin down…, released in September 2015.
Before Vile made his entrance, the experimental post-punk rock duo from Brooklyn called Lushes faced a handful-sized audience of no more than 30 people and an enormously empty venue. Lushes was bold in its presentation of sound and performance, showcasing a mix of their two albums, what am i doing and Service Industry. Evoking a dynamic range of influences from punk and electronica to more classical roots in Bach, the pair are musically well-versed and ap- peared to develop and refinine their unique resonance as the performance pushed on. With vocalist James Ardery on guitar and synth and percus- sionist Joel Myers equipped with a sampling pad nestled between drums, the set was heavy and experimental in its loop-layering technique. Myers’ simple yet masterful hi-hat release, combined with Ardery’s constant tinkering with guitar effects and vocal loops, revealed the artisan genius be- hind the organic build of sound. The performance accumulated bravely from its albeit shy beginnings; in no time, both the sound and audience grew to proportions that complement- ed the full-fledged presence Lushes is clearly headed towards.
Admittedly, there is little with which to bridge the gap between Lushes and Vile other than their probably compatible laid-back dispositions. This had an interesting effect on the audience, a mixed crowd of young indie enthu- siasts, middle-aged ex-rock groupies, and a few in-between. Fitting into that vague category best suited for the 30-something crowd, Vile’s musical style is not necessarily incapable of reaching wider audiences, however, his relaxed stage presence along with the somewhat unconnected choice of support acts left the audience pleasantly muddled in the end.
This could not have been predicted by the opening song, ‘I’m an outlaw’, which instantly charmed the turn- out. Vile did not hesitate in asserting his banjo prowess or his incredibly well seasoned sound. B’lieve i’m goin down… is Vile’s sixth studio-recorded album to date, not to mention his con- tributions as co-founder of the other well-known indie rock band, The War on Drugs. The folk-rock introduction to his set was quickly swapped for other styles, transitioning with each song and each instrument; Vile repeatedly traded between banjo, jaguar, and acoustic throughout the entire performance, a unique gesture to the specific mood he wished to create. The con- stant swapping of instruments could have been better timed with some sort of audience interaction, as the crowd seemed to fade a little drows- ily into Vile’s relaxed couch-jam style halfway through the lineup and were definitely in a sort of numb trance by the encore. Perhaps a mere complication of performance, Vile’s music re- mains successful in its own right and his album b’lieve i’m goin down… is a mature and assorted selection of his musical talents.
by Harley Griffiths – @HarleyGriffiths