Grungy American indie-rock godfather Kurt Vile filled the Chevron Festival Gardens with his southern drawl and drawn back acoustic rhythms for the second night last Tuesday. Joe was there to catch his sombre yet entrancing solo performance.
If you wanted to chase those Tuesday blues away, then hitting up the Kurt Vile’s Perth International Arts Festival’s appearance was an option. A solo show featuring just Vile, a banjo, a guitar and the audience – it felt oddly intimate for such a large venue, with the superimposed Perth Skyline dominating the backdrop if you looked above.
At times it felt like as if Vile was actually playing in his lounge-room, donning a casual grunge look – although it didn’t give off complete reluctance for a performance, it didn’t pronounce overkill either.
Featuring a backing track across some songs as an obvious replacement for a backing band – it was actually the sets that didn’t contain the backing track in which Vile proved his mettle, allowing his true rustic, folky style to come out in a jaded clarity.
At the onset of his set, the fingerpicking at the intro of his songs was slightly laborious, however his admittance of being on antibiotics and drinking “liquid crack” (it was water) suggested a combination of fatigue, jetlag and illness making it tricky for him to push through. There was basically a metaphorical hurdle hanging in the air of the concert and it wasn’t until the latter half Vile had actually overcome it. The strumming matched more of the rhythm; the fingerpicking had become more fluid and songs became less monotonous and more expressive.
Vile maintained an introverted demeanour throughout the show, coolly asking the audience “hows life?” between three or four songs, it was awesome to see Vile so concerned with the psychological wellbeing of the audience. Think Dr Phil meets Kurt Cobain(ish) – the topical therapy of Kurt Vile intricately playing his malady’s and you, the punter, experiencing an existential crisis.
With the Banjo just lying just to the side of him for half of his set, that six-stringed instrument gave away much hype. Attentively, mentally asking “When will the banjo be played, when will the banjo be played” when Vile played away at those strings you were immediately showered in a cascading waterfall of vaguely country goodness.
But looking past set, the minor mishaps, the perception that things were slightly “off” – lyrically Vile portrayed of this performer who displayed biting introspection. Just by witnessing the faces of the audience, who tolerated and forgave Vile for a few of the minor shortcomings, it was apparent the music had definitely hit off the crowd on some deep level.
Performing an encore that possible and felt like forever, with many punters legit confused on when to up and leave. Vile played a generous final set, finishing up on a slow, poetic, inward seeking finish by finishing up just as he had begun, softly and lightly finishing up with the final strum of a bright guitar chord.