Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile hit London this month to play Camden’s Electric Ballroom – in support of his sixth studio album, B’lieve I’m Going Down – and what an auspicious occasion to have been a part of.
The multi-instrumentalist, previously a founding member of indie rock band, The War on Drugs, plays alongside Jesse Trbovich (bass guitar/saxophone), Rob Laakso (guitar/bass), and Kyle Spence (drums); collectively known as The Violators.
First on stage were Brookyln two-piece, Lushes, who set the tone for the evening with their post 90’s combination of electro-grunge and punk rock. They totally won me over with new material from their latest album, Service Industry. Largely instrumental, with minimal lyrics, the songs drifted into one another, merging into a seemingly continuous set. Their final track compared the music industry to a circus, as they cast a dark theatrical vibe on the venue.
Anticipation grew as the band exited and the crowd awaited the arrival of the man himself, who finally appeared on stage to the psychedelic indie beats of ‘Wrote For Luck’ by Happy Mondays, wearing a double denim ensemble with white Adidas sneakers, and his trademark curly brown hair.
Kurt Vile and The Violators warmed up the crowd with the slow burn of ‘On Tour’, from earlier album, Smoke Ring For My Halo, before cracking onto more invigorating songs from the new album, such as ‘I’m An Outlaw’, with banjo and electric drums, and new favourite, ‘Pretty Pimpin’. I love the humility and continuous melody of this cool tune, with lyrics such as, “All I want is to just have fun, live my life like a son of a gun,” and, “Waking on a pretty day, don’t know why I ever go away.”
Highlights from the new album include ‘Life Like This’, with its simultaneously upbeat and chilled melody on piano. Playing songs of depth, the band gave an incredible performance right through to the penultimate song, where Kurt was accompanied on drums by Stella, a friend of the band, as he played keyboard.
I was blown away by the magnetic and vibrant sound of the gig, an electronic performance that far exceeded my expectations for the night. Kurt’s songs strike a real chord, delivering a truthful quality and beauty – melodic sounds, reminiscent of Neil Young and Pavement, that could almost go on forever and not tire, or fail to impress.
This was a sold out show and worth every minute. For those who missed it, Kurt Vile and The Violators are back in London next March, playing the Roundhouse. Get on that.
B’lieve I’m Going Down is out now via Matador Records.
Upcoming Tour Dates…
23 – Penelope, Madrid, Spain
24 – Armazem F, Lisboa, Portugal
02 – Webster Hall – Ground Control Touring 15th Anniversary, New York, NY
30 – Falls Festival, Marion Bay, Australia
31 – Falls Festival, Lorne, Australia
01 – Falls Festival, Byron Bay, Australia
02 – North Byron Parklands, Wooyung, Australia
03 – Forum Theatre, Melbourne, Australia
07 – Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Nsw, Australia
09 – Southbound Festival, Busselton, Australia
12 – Echo Festival, Auckland Central, New Zealand
13 – San Fran Bath House, Wellington, New Zealand
14 – The Sherwood, Queenstown, New Zealand
15 – Chicks Hotel, Dunedin, New Zealand
17 – College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT
19 – Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT
20 – Corona Theatre, Montreal, Canada
21 – The Haunt, Ithaca, NY
22 – Mr. Smalls, Millvale, PA
24 – Headliners, Louisville, KY
25 – Exit In, Nashville, TN
26 – Orange Peel, Asheville, NC
27 – Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
28 – Saturn, Birmingham, AL
29 – Proud Larry’s, Oxford, MS
02 – Bijou Theatre, Knoxville, TN
03 – Cats Cradle, Carrboro, NC
04 – Ottobar, Baltimore, MD
08 – L’Alhambra Paris, France
09 – Handelsbeurs, Gent, Belgium
10 – Roundhouse, London, United Kingdom
11 – All Saint’s Church, Brighton, United Kingdom
12 – De Helling, Utrecht, Netherlands
13 – Doomsroosje, Nijmegen, Netherlands
20-22 – Hangout Festival, Gulf Shores, AL
Words: Georgia Fisher
Photo: Marina Chavez