Stoned Ecstatic With Kurt Vile at The National

by | Oct 14, 2022 | MUSIC

I often forget that Kurt Vile is a son of Philadelphia. His blissed-out, stream-of-consciousness lyrics rambling over chilled out riffing feels more at home in the late 60s/early 70s Laurel Canyon scene of lore than the gritty “City of Brotherly Love” — a place known for having what can be best described as low-level simmering rage.

At Wednesday’s gig at the National, his affection for presenting a calm-inducing, intricately played, guitar-soaked homage to all things folksy and Americana seemed born equally out of the drug-soaked slumber parties of Mama Cass and the picture-perfect storytelling of singing postman John Prine (whose songs he wove seamlessly into his set).

Opening up the night was Julia Shapiro — a Seattle artist performing saturated, dreamy, shoegaze-inspired pop that induced memories of perhaps-forgotten early 90s indie pop artists like Tsunami — though, reviewing Shapiro’s album after the fact, I found it to be more aligned with the likes of Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine. Her set was a delightful amuse-bouche before the main course that was Kurt Vile, and it’s a true shame that more people weren’t in attendance to witness it.

I’ve often thought of Kurt as being the fraternal twin to Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis — born from 70s guitar-driven rock, informed by 80s punk and indie culture — but taking a divergent path in the creation of their art. While J. focuses heavily on ear-destroying volume, Kurt is more subtle and delicate, while being just as effective. There were numerous moments throughout the evening where the sense of stillness gave me pause — did I accidentally eat a bunch of weed gummies again? Am I sleeping? Don’t get me wrong, Kurt’s band is capable of delivering at high decibels. But even still, it just washes over you, saturating your mind with visions of backyard parties around fire pits — ecstatic, stoned, drunken nights giving rise to the corresponding confusion of the day after: head swollen, wanting to crawl back into the safe refuge of your bed, lamenting mistakes made. A beautiful night.

Here are some photos of the evening’s performances:

Kurt Vile:

Julia Shapiro:

All Photos by Michael Thorn

Michael Thorn

Michael Thorn

Michael Thorn is a photographer, writer & sometimes graphic designer who never got over the mental scarring of seeing GG Allin. His work has appeared in Kerrang, Short Fast & Loud, New Noise, Heartattack, CvltNation, NoEcho, Decibel, Revolver, MaximumRocknroll and on the walls of cities throughout the world.




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