Kurt Vile and the Violators defy contemporary sound at Manchester Music Hall


Kurt Vile and the Violators brought their warped, folk rock jams to Manchester Music Hall on Wednesdat, Aug. 24 in support for Vile’s most recent album “b’lieve I’m goin down…”

Aayat Ali

Kurt Vile and the Violators brought their warped, folk rock jams to Manchester Music Hall Wednesday, Aug. 24 in support for Vile’s most recent album “b’lieve I’m goin down…”

Opening band The Sadies have been around since the mid-1990s, but their live performance felt fresh and rejuvenating.  With a variety of rock genres — from surf rock, to psychedelic and bluegrass — the band was more than suitable for their audience. The Canadian band consists of stand-up bassist Sean Dean, drummer Mike Belitsky and lead brother vocalists Travis and Dallas Good.

The Good brothers are no strangers to country music as their father and uncles make up promptly named country-trio The Good Brothers. The group is a staple in the Canadian country music scene and has been around since the early 1970s.

The differing ages of the audience reflected the type of music to be expected: country, folk and straightforward rock n’ roll.  The Sadies’ set consisted of claps, stomps and impromptu crowd sing-alongs— essentially an amplified country rock show.  With fiddle and bow that sported several broken hairs in hand, the band closed the show out with a cover of country gospel duo The Louvin’ Brothers’ “There’s a Higher Power.” 

As Vile took the stage, his presence was meek, humble, with hair that runs down his shoulders and a guitar in hand.  He began the night strumming the chords to “Dust Bunnies”, a song about quick fixes and the consequences they come with.

Although “b’lieve I’m goin down…” is a story of a man who is slightly apathetic and melancholy, the composition of the music itself is like looking into a two-way mirror — you may think you are looking at your reflection, but in reality someone else is seeing you fix your insecurities. 

Despite the slightly sad content of the music, the way it translates in a live setting was enough to keep the audience on their feet. With each listen the audience was able to find something new to latch onto, whether it be a cynical lyric or a jazzy little piano riff.  Simply put, Vile’s music is more than meets the first listen.

Throughout the set, his “woo’s” and minimal banter worked well with keeping the audience engaged and focused on the music itself rather than semantics.  The rare moments of banter (“Is it possible to get a little Kentucky whiskey up here?”) managed to snap the audience out of the head-bopping trance from his guitar and banjo playing.

He continued with the song “Jesus Fever” off of his 2011 album Smoke Ring For My Halo. The song itself stands apart from his most recent music, but holds true to Vile’s stream of conscious, sometimes-combatable lyrics.

Even stepping outside for a moment was interrupted when the familiar finger picking of his recent hit single “Pretty Pimpin’” rang out.  Almost instantly everyone rushed inside to catch the familiar upbeat tune.  Whether someone knew the song itself was irrelevant.  The song is one of the more captivating songs that Vile has ever put out. 

The song tells the story of Vile waking up in a haze of depersonalization (I woke up this morning/Didn’t recognize the man in the mirror/ Then I laughed and I said “Oh silly me, that’s just me”) and attempting to come back down to Earth.  Vile himself told the audience the song “has a history to it.” His internal conflict with the man in the mirror and indecisiveness of who he wants to be is a prime example of Vile’s music and lyrics convergence.

As the night came to a close, Vile began playing his “Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze” from his 2013 album of the same name.  The song, although reminiscent of walking through a field on a breezy summer day, translated very well in the dimly lit venue and kept the crowd in a happy, meditative state.

After exiting the stage, Vile appeared minutes later in response to the echoing cheers and hollers from fans.  His encore consisted of his 2013 ballad “Baby’s Arms” from Smoke Ring For My Halo.  Finally, as lead guitarist Jesse Trbovich whipped out an unexpected saxophone, the band jammed out for another ten minutes until the show eventually came to an end.

Despite Vile’s persona of “shy guy,” his love for music and fans is undeniable.  His lazy voice and honest, contemplative music is the reason we can expect him to be around for quite some time.  Hopefully, his first Lexington performance will not be his last.