On Friday night the Paradise Rock Club in Boston payed homage — or, rather, divulged, in what I believe to be the introduction of a new term. Kurt Vile and The Violators transformed, maybe even transcended, the basic parameters of today’s “norm core,” with that newest of the new: “altcore”; a sold-out show welcomed the cultish materialization of plaid, and flannels, and mustaches, and glasses, and relaxed skinny jeans, and slightly out-of-shape men, and a general attitude of, well, blah-laced surrender.
Maybe it was the cold air, or the sudden realization that autumn was here, rain and all, or even that winter is just around the corner; however, whatever the revelation, Vile and Co. kicked off to a slow, sleepy start that permeated the crowd itself.
Taking the stage at a modest nine minutes late, the band began to play art 11:09 p.m. A mixture of the red lighting and the gritty, dry tone of Vile’s haunting and “melancholy” new record b’lieve i’m goin down… made whatever hint of dew and dankness ruminating outside of the venue completely disappear.
Kurt Vile and The Violators’s stage presence and sound evoked a definitive desert scape. The group’s performance invited subtle Wilco-esque meets Stephen Malkmus moments. Yet, sounds employed images, and as I closed my eyes, the road trips of my formative years emerged. A sort of restless plane of one, narrow highway coalesced: a sort of infinite, barren wasteland on both sides of you ensued.
It’s an itching discomfort, but it, and by that, I mean the sounds of the instruments and words in the lyrics leave you feeling terribly strung out, but begging for more. It’s sickening, but so so sweet, in a perverse kind of way. Like the directionless, ominous drives through and across the better part of the United States, it rolls on and on; but it settles you and it centers you.
The defining point in the evening’s main show unfolded at the near end. A slow-building momentum had finally amounted, and newfound energy betided. Vile’s band left the stage, leaving just him and, pardon this cliché, his guitar alone to play. It felt serendipitous just being there. The genius of one man became clear and a deeper understanding of Vile came as a kind of apparition. Vile through music managed to command his audience, leaving everyone in a kind of nodding, swaying cadence.
The intimacy between him and the crowd was tangible. A sort of sultry, romantic ambiance left, what I imagine to be a largely male, heterosexual turn out, questioning their own sexuality. Everyone seemed smitten by Kurt and his mop of brown, curly locks.
Vile offers an honest, and more importantly candid look into his own soul, and the souls of those who turn out to see him play. Love and life are fickle games; but something in seeing Kurt Vile and The Violators play, makes everything feel just a little bit simpler.