Performance: Kurt Vile & the Violators at Detroit Bar – Costa Mesa, CA

The night started at Big Belly Deli, where we split a sandwich and a pizza (yeah, we go for the gusto) before heading to Avalon for some fortifying libations. I had a tall Russian pilsner and Laura had a Franzinkaner. They were playing Dark Crystal on the monitors, AGAIN. When it became appropriate, we crossed the street to the Detroit Bar. This place draws some great acts, but has one of the weirdest set-ups I’ve ever seen, with the stage behind and to the left of the bar, in the smallest part of the space. The decor looks like someone gave a self-taught carpenter/interior designer $500 and told them to make a sci-fi movie set, without trying TOO hard. But the beer selection’s good and it’s walkable, so I’m inclined to check out a show every month or two.

Things got off to a rocky start with RTX, glammy punks in the gratingly self-conscious “don’t give a fuckkkkk” mode. The lead singer strutted around the stage in tights, a tunic, and a raccoon tail, warbling and screeching while her band played a high school talent show homage to Black Sabbath, all down-tuned power chords and indulgent squalls and crescendos. Is this supposed to be ironic? Have I traveled back in time to 2003? This is a cautionary example of what not to pull from the glam/proto punk world that Kurt Vile treads in. After a blessed break the man himself took stage, starting with a cleansing, low key rendition of Blackberry Song from his sophomore effort Childish Prodigy. Non-sequiter: Kurt Vile looks a lot like Weird Al. I can’t be the first person to notice this.

Kurt & his Violators don’t really get inside your head as much as they wrap your finer senses in repeated layers of sonic gauze and dare you to wrestle free. Honestly, his serpentine melodies and smirking lyrical digressions come across much clearer when it’s just Vile, a guitar and his endless piles of enigmatic hair. Even peppier numbers such as Freeway and Jesus Fever lost some lustre with the triple guitar assault, though the steadfast drummer did his best to cut through the murk. This doesn’t need to be a negative, necessarily, in the same way that merging mid-90’s lo-fi, Lou Reed and Tom Petty-isms into a hypnotic wash shouldn’t sound this novel. Despite (or perhaps because of) the lethargic din, Vile and his fleetly picking fingers commanded a quiet respect from the audience, even silencing the woefully-out-of-place bottle-breaking buffoons a few heads over. Alas, the heavy setlist had taken my sleepy fiance down for the count, and we exited before the encore, leaving the laconic long-hairs played on for what might as well have been eternity.

(Sorry there are no pictures. You don’t want to see the resolution my knock-off blackberry gets in the dark confines of this place)

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