Tag Archives: Kurt Vile & the Violators
Lo-fi singer-songwriter-guitarist Kurt Vile, began collaborating with Adam Granduciel as the War on Drugs in 2003. They self-released an EP in 2005 and soon after the band became a full-time gig. But Vile had other things he wanted to say musically, so he decided to go it alone and put out Constant Hitmaker, a collection of home recordings, in 2009. The disc was well received and his music was compared to Bruce Springsteen’s. Not bad, right? Well since then the Philly musician has put out other stellar albums, including this year’s Smoke Ring for My Halo, featuring pounding drums and plenty of guitars. Vile (above, performing “Jesus Fever”) has been prolific in 2011. In fact a new EP, So Outta Reach, came out just two days ago. And you can celebrate its release when Vile, backed by the Violators, plays Webster Hall tomorrow night.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Matt Ward grew up in California, and his West Coast sensibility combined with the country and gospel influences of his youth have long informed his music, first as a member of the folk trio Rodriguez and then on his own as M. Ward. His first solo album, Duet for Guitars #2, Ward’s take on Americana, came out in 1999. Since then the talented musician has filled another five LPs and a few EPs with his sweet songs and gravelly voice. But you can also judge a man by the company he keeps, and Ward (above, playing “Poison Cup” for 101.9 KINK FM in Portland, Ore.) is no slouch in that department, recording and touring with Jim James, Mike Mogis and Conor Oberst, as part of Monsters of Folk, and putting out two albums with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him.
Kurt Vile, another talented singer-songwriter-guitarist, this one from Philly, has put out four stellar albums. The most recent of which, this year’s Smoke Ring for My Halo, features pounding drums and plenty of guitars. And when backed live by the Violators, Vile (below, performing “Hunchback” last year at Mercury Lounge) is one not to miss. So don’t. See M. Ward and Kurt Vile & the Violators play The Wellmont Theatre on Thursday.
Kurt Vile & the Violators – The Bowery Ballroom – June 11, 2011
Behind swaths of hair and layers of distortion, Kurt Vile, the man and musician, is easy to lose. He and his four-piece band, the Violators, wear chest-length hair draped over their faces, sharing an identical neo-grunge aesthetic. And with up to four guitarists onstage at a time, Vile’s own instrumental contributions occasionally assimilate into rock slosh. This isn’t to say, however, that Vile isn’t vital. For his first headlining show at The Bowery Ballroom, Vile, on the strength of his most recent critically acclaimed album, Smoke Ring for My Halo, drew a sold-out crowd, a group clamoring for the frontman’s musical output.
As a singer-songwriter, Vile’s melodies, expressed in slurred slacker vocals, touch on familiar American rock territory with a contemporary touch. Delay-saturated guitar riffs and pounding drums transformed “Ghost Town” and “Jesus Fever” from dynamic three-minute songs into sprawling anthems. The effect felt like Neil Young’s Live Rust given an indie-rock makeover, lots of grizzle with the addition of pulsating toms and huge reverb. But during a solitary performance of Smoke Ring for My Halo’s “Peeping Tomboy,” Vile’s intricate fingerpicking on acoustic guitar wove beautifully with playful, self-reflective lyrics. Moments such as this brought balance to a show that found Vile enveloped within his band. Yet, as one attendee noted, yelling out “I love your band,” a group-driven focus is the essence of Vile’s concerts. The unity is the name. —Jared Levy
Kurt Violator & the Violators have a new disc, Smoke Ring for My Halo, and they’re playing The Bowery Ballroom on Saturday. The show is already sold out, but if you’d still like to go, you’ve got a chance because The House List is giving away two tickets. So try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, including your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Kurt Vile, 6/11) and a brief message explaining why staying in NYC for the weekend beats heading out of town. Eddie Bruiser, whose feet won’t touch sand any time soon, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.
J Mascis/Kurt Vile and the Violators – Mercury Lounge – March 24, 2011
Midway through J Mascis’ set, the seasoned headliner invited Kurt Vile, opener and contributor to the former’s most recent acoustic album, Several Shades of Why, to accompany on the song “Make it Right.” As they shared the stage, a sense of mutual respect pervaded the room. Earlier, Vile, along with his touring band, the Violators, tore through his collection of guitar-based indie rock, dividing his focus between songs from earlier albums and his new one, Smoke Ring for My Halo. “Hunchback,” a selection from Childish Prodigy, brought muscle, showcasing Vile and the Violators bent for deeply affected grooves. But armed with a simple, elegant acoustic guitar, Vile also found balance on Smoke Ring for My Halo’s “Jesus Fever” and “Ghost Town,” deftly matching his voice and guitar with the band’s tremendous sound.
Mascis, best known as the guitarist, singer and songwriter of Dinosaur Jr., followed Vile’s lead, intertwining his band’s recent work with quieter, introspective songs from Several Shades of Why. From a seated position, he occasionally glanced at a music stand holding a lyric book, but, most often, known guitar riffs took precedence over words. The live performance combined elements of Dinosaur Jr.’s sound, grungy distortion and piercing solos, parsed out of Several Shades of Why. But, with Vile’s help, Mascis colored the solo work, exploring the depths of each other’s songwriting and talent. —Jared Levy
Kurt Vile & the Violators – Mercury Lounge – October 7, 2009
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