Kurt Vile and the Violators at Fox Theater, by William Wayland
Kurt Vile (photo: William Wayland)

Words by William Wayland

Kurt Vile makes it all look easy. Like he and the Violators are putting on a show in his basement, or maybe in the backyard by the pool, and a thousand unexpected guests showed up to listen in. All of them sitting out on the lawn, smoking weed, drinking beers, and kind of taking it all in.

But you can’t help feeling that he seems a uncomfortable with this arrangement. Like a venue holding a couple thousand people feels just a little too big. Between songs, Vile would let out a "Whoop!" or a "Let’s keep this momentum going!"but it all felt a little ironic. This is something a rock star is supposed to say and do.

And this is how Kurt Vile seems to let us all in on the joke. With his twangy voice and personal, sometimes funny lyrics, it feels like he’s maybe putting us all on. Maybe just a little. Or maybe this indie-rock guitar hero really does wonder if he deserves to be as venerated as he is, and doesn’t want to take himself too seriously.

Either way, Kurt Vile is an enormously talented musician touring behind Bottle It In, his poppiest, most commercial LP to date. More people need to hear his music live, and this show didn’t disappoint. Opening at Fox Theater was Jessica Pratt, who makes Kurt Vile look like a blabbermouth — she asked the lighting technician to bring down the spots and reminded the sound tech of a notation they made during the soundcheck, but that was about it.

Her voice though. Ethereal. Magical. Wistful. Piercing. If you close your eyes, it’s easy to imagine her guitar accompanied by a string orchestra, though tonight she’s joined only by Matthew McDermott on keyboard. I’m looking forward to hearing more when the new album, Quiet Signs, is released in February.

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