Kurt Vile had to know that including a song like “One Trick Ponies” on his seventh record would be a vulnerable action, as rumblings from certain cynical/critical corners would gleefully point to Bottle It In and say, “See! He’s just released the same mid-tempo collection of songs he’s always done.” But see… that’s the thing. That song even included the line “‘Cause I’ve always had a soft spot for repetition.” Some people have every single Ramones record or Motörhead record, and that’s OK. Now, I think Vile has veered off the the sidewalk and into the median strip a bit more than Lemmy or Joey, but there is no denying that there’s somewhat of a set template to most of his songs.
But clearly he’s growing his audience, as tonight’s show is the biggest one yet that he’s played in town. It’s been a pretty wild ride since I first saw Vile at Church in 2009, when The War On Drugs honcho Adam Granduciel was in the band, and the deal with Matador Records hadn’t happened yet. Clearly, a lot of has changed since then, but trusty sidekick and expert guitar player/bass player/keyboard player Jesse Trbovich is still stage left to Vile, though his sax work in “Freak Train” wasn’t on offer tonight.” “Bassackwards” crystalizes the lazy (in a good way! like just chilling in a hammock on a warm summer day) mode that Vile rides so well, his gentle finger-picked guitar work matching perfectly with whatever designer CBD oil you happened to have snuck past security.
Bottle It In is his latest, and after playing in Europe over the summer, tonight marks the kickoff tour in the States. There was a strong and vocal contingent out for Rob Laasko, a Bostonian whose been a Violator for a while now, and ex-Harvey Milk drummer Kyle Spence is now operating at the back of the stage. I am not sure if sprawling is the correct term for the latest album, but there are a few songs that do clock in at a duration that’s a dangerous setting when using a microwave. Aside from the catchy lead single of “Loading Zones,” “Cold Was The Wind” is my pick for best song on the record. Despite Vile’s half-hearted shoutout to the Sox, later prefaced by saying he doesn’t follow sports at all, this song not only contains references to the Rocket Man and KV homeboy Mike Schmidt but also it’s gotta be the only time that a certain strong Belgian ale makes an appearance in a song. “Peepin’ Tom” found Vile alone on the stage with just an acoustic guitar, and really showcased his impressive finger-picking ability. His ability to follow whatever path strikes is fancy came into play on the meandering “Wakin’ On A Pretty Day” which features the best tempo pickup I can think of, and of course “Pretty Pimpin'” had to be played, because not only is it his most popular song (by far, at least according to Spotify), it’s also in the running for one of his songs, period.
Jessica Pratt and her keyboard playing tour member hit a quiet but sublime mood and kinda stayed right smack dab in the middle of that for her opening set. She’s got a gentle way of expressing her songs, with flecks of Joni Mitchell, Vashti Bunyan and Nick Drake bleeding through. Her voice might be an acquired taste to some, but I’d recommend giving her latest record a listen to decided for yourself.
Photos from the show:
Created with flickr slideshow.
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.