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