Amid steamy temps at Bell’s Brewery Beer Garden in Kalamazoo, Kurt Vile & The Violators didn’t “Bottle It In” musically, but delivered smoldering indie-rock for a sold-out crowd. Review, photos.
In the midst of an epic heat wave, Kurt Vile and his band made darn sure to melt any faces that weren’t already in a puddle on the ground Friday at Bell’s Brewery Beer Garden. The Philadelphia rocker brought his free-flowing, psychedelic songs to Kalamazoo on the hottest day of the year so far.
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Fresh off a dizzying European tour and still riding on the shimmering, technicolor wave that was “Bottle it In,” his most recent release, Vile seemed to wear his newly christened rock crown brilliantly, as an ornament to accompany his unruly hair.
After grinding it out in the very obscure, niche circles of music listeners, where his music might make its way to you after a barista
told you about it, Vile has arrived (or at least he’s on the elevator up) to the top floor of indie-rock glory.
Opening with “Loading Zones” from his most recent release “Bottle it In,” Vile and his band The Violators displayed their unique ability to craft intense soundscapes. The drums hit hard, the bass felt like a steady heartbeat, and Vile’s droning but fitting voice oozed over
everything. The mix was impeccable.
“Bassackwards” followed shortly after, proving to be a dreamy portal of looped guitar and drums that became altogether entrancing. The groove-inspired concert goers to dance blissfully, despite the still near-90 degree night. (The venue had fans and water stations scattered throughout the lawn.)
A LITTLE ZOMBIE-LIKE BUT MASTERS OF THEIR CRAFT
Although the music and the band were near-perfect, performing songs almost exactly like the record, their strength was also a little bit of a weakness. It was hot, yes, but the band members never really moved from their posts, including Vile, who stood like a rock ‘n’ roll statue at the foot of the stage. They were a little zombie-like.
Stage-lighting was also minimal and the drummer was barely visible the entire night, hidden in a cover of shadows.
Another small but noticeable conflict, this time on account of the venue, was that the outside house music, still playing and spilling out
from the nearby patio, at times competing with Vile’s softer tunes. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Kalamazoo show without at least two trains blazing by mid-set.
Other highlights of the night included the smoldering, rock-heavy “Check Baby,” a growling number with a simple back beat and distorted guitar and “Yeah Bones,” a song with the same endearing feel of a Super Nintendo game theme-song.
After the brief encore intermission, the band returned with their most lively presence during the fan-favorite “Pretty Pimpin,” an addictively good jam with an unmistakable riff and Vile’s unpredictable vocal gymnastics.
Vile and his crew no-doubt are masters of their craft. They weren’t as energetic as one might wish for a rock show, but they are painters, sonic disciples, with instruments that turn into brushes capable of painting broad, vibrant strokes over the entrances listener.
PHOTO GALLERY: Kurt Vile & The Violators, Jennifer Castle at Bell’s Beer Garden
Photos by Derek Ketchum