It was a dreamlike display from the music chameleon.
A lot of music tastes overlap in Kurt Vile – he’s spacey and psychedelic; his songs are a bit rootsy and sometimes he plays the banjo; there’s a bluesy tinge and he sure loves an extended guitar jam. Vile’s work also appeals to fans of ’80s college rock and the early alternative rock sound. But perhaps most commonly, he gets classified as an indie rock artist.
It’s not that Vile’s trying to please everyone. As we saw tonight, he prefers to push his song lengths past six minutes. There’s a lot of repetition, and while his lyrics and melodies are memorable, rarely do his choruses come for your throat. But Vile brings people together. You kind of feel your way into the heart of a Kurt Vile song. Once there – like on tonight’s early setlist highlight ‘Bassackwards’ – it’s a cushy and warm place to be.
His albums are far better suited to a sit-down sesh around the turntable than listening via a skip-happy streaming service. But despite the latter being the dominant listening method of the current era, Vile’s popularity has been on a slow build over the last decade. And it’s still building. Here for Boogie and Bluesfest, he sold out one show at The Forum and backed-up tonight at the comparatively dingier Croxton Bandroom.
Given the nature of his songwriting, Vile’s shows aren’t explosive affairs. He’s up there doing his own thing, giving no fucks what anyone thinks. He told us he loved us and that we were beautiful a few times. It seemed genuine, but he wasn’t about to make a cloying pitch for our affections.
His self-containment is massively endearing, however. He spent the show submerged in the zone, hunched over his selection of Fenders and Gibsons. The acoustic came out every now and then, including for a solo run of ‘Peeping Tomboy’, the most riveting moment of the set.
Vile and the Violators sampled evenly from his last four records. His latest, Bottle It In, got the strongest representation. From the grungy sound check jam, ‘Check Baby’, to the dark-tinted dream pop number, ‘Cold Was the Wind’, Vile showcased the peculiar simplicity that’s become his stock in trade.
He roped in two local heroes for the encore. First, the Dirty Three’s Mick Turner joined for some guitar twiddling before Courtney Barnett came out for the show’s closing number, ‘Over Everything’. Taken from the pair’s Lotta Sea Lice LP, it was a sweet moment of harmony to cap off an evening characterised by good vibrations.
Highlight: ‘Peeping Tomboy’.
Lowlight: Sound was a bit muddy.
Crowd favourite: ‘Over Everything’.