Pitchfork Music Festival 2011, Sunday: Kurt Vile & The Violators
If your initial reaction to seeing Kurt Vile on the Pitchfork lineup this year was deja vu, don't worry. It's not a sign of heatstroke—Vile picked up the honor of being the first act to perform two years in a row. For that reason, you'd think the lanky Philadelphian and his Violators would be a little higher on the lineup than 2:30pm.
Once the set started, it soon became clear why he earned this early-afternoon slot: This is perfect summer listening. Flanked by two dudes hunched over their guitars, Vile served up psych-tinged folk-gaze. Label chief and indie icon Gerard Cosloy looked on in approval as the band, decked out in T-shirts and jeans, layed into "Jesus Fever" and other tunes off their second album for Matador, this year's Smoke Ring for My Halo.
Two of the artists Vile most vividly recalls are Thurston Moore and J. Mascis, both of whom he's toured with in the last year alone. Clearly he's been taking cues from both, perfecting his slacker drawl draped by long, shaggy curls. Cherry-picking from his songbook, the songman tackled "Hunchback" and "Society Is My Friend" at full blast, driving home the fact that he's doing rock & roll about as good as anyone out there, with an emphasis on hooks that his garage-leaning peers sorely lack.
When one of his guitarists, Jesse Turbo, dropped his ax and whipped out his sax, the hypnotic "Freak Train" began to chug along, driven by a robotic groove with steel-string arpeggios resonating overtop. It was gorgeous, but in this crippling, near-100-degree heat, about all you can do is bob your head along and pray for a waft of cool breeze.