Philadelphia slacker-folkie Kurt Vile stopped through Republic last Sunday for an excellent show that served as a Jazz Fest warm-up for local music fans. Over the course of 90 minutes, Vile and his band, the Violators, effortlessly strummed their way through a career-spanning setlist of Vile’s trademark Dylanesque songs as the crowd followed every musical detour the band adventured down.
Vile has built an impressive catalog since he started recording songs in his Philadelphia bedroom in 2008 with frequent collaborator Adam Granduciel (frontman for the band The War on Drugs). Vile’s unique sound manages to infuse the catchy jangle of Tom Petty classics with dreamy guitar solos that display Vile’s chops without ever being flashy. Vile’s latest record, 2015’s b’lieve i’m goin’ down…, saw Vile expand his musical palette with banjo and piano for his strongest collection of songs to date.
After kicking things off with the quiet acoustic fingerpicking of “Girl Called Alex,” the band exploded into “Puppet to the Man” with pounding drums and ringing electric guitars. Recent single “Pretty Pimpin’” was received with cheers as Vile drawled the hypnotic opening lines “I woke up this morning / didn’t recognize the man in the mirror / then I laughed and I said / oh silly me that’s just me.” Vile took some liberties with the songs as he changed up the rhythm of the lyrics and danced around the melodies he plucked from his guitar. The Violators swapped instruments after every song, subtly adding synthesizers, old-school bass tones, and banjo to keep every song fresh and interesting.
After a quick break, Vile returned with just his acoustic guitar for a contemplative reading of “Peeping Tomboy” before the Violators joined in for a rowdy take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Downbound Train.” This show was the last of the band’s current tour before they get back on the road at the end of May for a whirlwind four-month trip around the world, including almost every major festival in North America. With an ace band and a seemingly endless supply of great tunes, Vile shows no signs of slowing down as he makes a case for becoming one of the best young songwriters in the world.
Girl Called Alex
Puppet to the Man
Wakin on a Pretty Day
That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say)
I’m an Outlaw