There’s something eerily synonymous about Kurt Vile’s surname and the way the Matador Records artist plays guitar. Yet the latter is “vile” in the best sense of the word. From the second he takes the stage, you’ll feel the tension, an undercurrent of near-hostile energy held captive just below the surface. It’s this uncertainty, this feeling of near-combustion weaving it’s way through Vile’s songs that kept the audience at Neumos on edge last night.
On first glance, Vile’s demeanor was unassuming; long, dark curls masked his face as mumbled lyrics seeped out from behind the veil. But it’s the fierceness of his delivery, the impassioned mumblings given new life by fuzzy guitars and crashing percussion, that make Vile a musician worth seeing in the flesh.
Touring in support of Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze, his most recent release with backing band the Violators, Vile’s set was a mixture of slow, creeping ballads and ear-buzzing rock cuts. And while it felt at times that Vile was stumbling through the set, letting the reverb of his mike and feedback of his guitars take the lead, the laid-back vibe worked well with the low-fi rock that makes up the bulk of his discography.
Vile’s music is the embodiment of chill, a nod to the folk-driven hippie rock of the sixties, and the perfect soundtrack for driving with no end in sight. That’s why the musician at his best when there is nothing holding him back – during the 10-minute extended play of the album’s title track, and the explosive guitar solos and the shrieks that break up the monotony of his deadpan mutterings.
Despite the underlying heaviness, there was comfort in the pretty melodies and observant lyrics of Vile’s “Snowflakes Are Dancing,” and excitement in the crashing percussion, thundering bass line and intricate guitar licks of “KV Crimes.” It’s that variety, and that expectation of more good vibes to come, that imbued the evening with a feeling of ease.