Kurt Vile Channels His Influences

October 8th, 2009

Kurt Vile & the Violators – Mercury Lounge – October 7, 2009

(Photo: Justin Clowes)

(Photo: Justin Clowes)

Seemingly out of nowhere, Philadelphia native Kurt Vile has quickly built a following based on Constant Hitmaker, released on Gulcher and Brooklyn’s Woodsist Records. His music has a dreamlike quality of some imaginary pop-psyche scene, all lush soundscapes with spacey effects. But, onstage, essentially it’s classic rock and roll, with heavy reverb and the occasional drum machine or synth. Vile channels the storyteller-folksinger greats, delivering stream-of- consciousness lyrics with an effortless Dylan-like drawl. All of this has catapulted him to sign a “worldwide multi-album” deal and release his latest disc, Childish Prodigy, with indie heavy-hitter Matador Records.

Vile started the show with a couple of solo acoustic tracks, showcasing his formidable finger-picking chops and his ability to weave unusual lyric melodies through these neo-country licks. Then the Violators joined him for a decidedly Crazy Horse feeling on “Don’t Get Cute,” which led into an extended “Freak Train” with third guitarist Adam Granduciel improvising free-jazz sax, as Mike Zeng kept up a locomotive beat. It’s a combination of ’70s AM West Coast pop, classic Southern rock, avant-garde hillbilly and folk that you can’t quite place. In the end you have to stop examining it and just give in to the Kurt Vile experience of making all those influences his own. In his typical free-association verse, Vile even managed to make the line “I got a trumpet/ I know where to dump it” sound good. It’s his “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and Vile is tossing the cue cardson the ground. —Jason Dean