Kurt Vile at Lincoln Hall | Concert review
Since my introduction to his blend of Green Mind meets Master of Reality in a live setting two years ago, Kurt Vile’s uncanny ability to evoke both early ‘90s slacker culture and severe hair envy remains unrivaled. Each time I see him, the feeling that I could just as easily have been standing among blue-haired teen smokers at the River City Music Hall in Evansville, Indiana in 1994, as among the 20-something Empty Bottle set is inescapable. Perhaps it’s because we’re the same age, and seemingly of similar musical pedigree, but Vile’s J Mascis-style vocal wanderings, ability to delicately pluck, strum and then shred with a vengeance, and boyish, stoner charm very fluidly blurs the line between past and present. This is especially true in his live show.
The Philly-based purveyor of psych-leaning heartland rock, a founding member of more-recent breakout The War on Drugs, has managed to hook both underground and XRT audiences with records that, though they err on the protracted, stoner side, include enough hook-fueled tracks to be memorable. 2011 release Smoke Ring for my Halo nails that sweet spot, and cemented Vile as a contender to sell out venues such as Lincoln Hall (But let’s be honest, this show could have easily sold out something like The Riviera given Halo’s string of critical success—props to the Vile folks for not forcing me to travel that far north).
This was especially evident when the room erupted to radio hit “Jesus Fever” and remained still during songs such as “Freak Train” from Childish Prodigy. With success naturally comes a few changes—a personal guitar tech and, thus, less tuning and small talk, in the case of this show. But the hour-long set did not fail to captivate and transport to the pre-blog era where long-haired, skateboarding stoner kids used the word beautiful to describe most everything (that’s a direct quote from mid-set Vile and my freshman-year boyfriend) and copies of Red Medicine and American Beauty could be found in the same cassette-filled shoeboxes. “Ridin’ on the freak train,” indeed.