A Breath Of Fresh Air- Kurt Vile’s Sold Out First Avenue Show Distracts From Stress Of Holiday Season


It’s so easy to fall down a dark hole of anxiety this time of year. With everything going by so fast and the inability to get everything done that you want to get done but you still try and damn near kill yourself doing it all– we all just need a breather. For some people it’s a trip to the salon, a trip to the bar, maybe an ice cream at the fancy place instead of just going to Dairy Queen. For me it’s a concert and, with shows being a bit sparse right now just like my free time, I was more than thankful to walk into First Avenue to see Kurt Vile and feel a sense of relief that I was dying for.

Jessica Pratt kicked the night off right at 8 and instantly whisked me away from all of the unexplained panic and anxiety attacks that had plagued me all day. Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, Jessica’s voice was something of angels. Sweet and angelic but with an undeniable sense of power behind it, Jessica’s music may be enough to soothe even the most high strung person into a sense of peace but it commands your attention with ease. A little bit of folk mixed with a little bit of indie and lo-fi, Jessica’s music refuses to be put into a box. When listening to her it’s easy to pick out some bits and pieces that remind you of a different performer but still impossible to say that she sounds like any of them. It’s always eye opening and heart warming to see a performer that truly has carved their own mountain in the every changing landscape of the music scene. Her set may have been a bit too calm for me and my rapidly increasing blood alcohol level but it was definitely what I needed and when it was said and done I found myself much calmer that I had been the rest of the day. Ah, the power of music.

After a longer than usual set change-over (was forty minutes really necessary?) headliner Kurt Vile and the Violators took the stage to a roar of applause from the sold out audience. After spending time as the lead guitarist of The War on Drugs, Kurt has gone out on his own and, as much as I love the War on Drugs, I think it was one of the best decisions he could have made. Kurt Vile (yes, that’s his actual name) is one of those guys that just has “it”. There’s no explaining what “it” is or how he got “it” but he has “it”. As soon as he took the stage surrounded by his band The Violators, my eyes were glued to him. He didn’t ask for attention, hell, he hid behind his long hair as if he didn’t want anyone to see him, but he had me in the palm of his hand. You could tell his was more comfortable with his guitar in hand and his back to the crowd than when he had the microphone in his face but that made him come off as real and personable which added a side to this man I had never seen before.

With a fourteen song set followed by a three song encore, Kurt spent a lot of time in the spotlight but it just wasn’t enough for me. I could have stood there for hours on end watching and listening to him and his band. There’s a sense of creativity in the music that you don’t typically get from the indie-rock, lo-fi scene that he seems to fit best in. I wouldn’t call the music jam band-esque but it’s not far off from it. While watching Kurt play, you can almost see the wheels turning. It was so refreshing to see an artist who was clearly not just going through the motions with every song but someone who seems to be constantly evolving and always changing.

The audience, much like myself, was eating it up. From the people in the front to the people in the back of the sold out First Avenue mainroom, everyone had their eyes glued to the stage. Some people were singing along to every word while others could be spotted just swaying and nodding to the infectious beats that the band was pumping through the speakers. In this wild time of the year, it was so nice to see hundreds of people just chill and let the music take over. There was no hustle or bustle at any point during Kurt’s set. People were friendly and seemed to be in the holiday spirit just adding to the beauty of the night. Much like Kurt has “it” yet I can’t explain “it” to you, the crowd had “it” and I’m not quite sure how to put that into words other than “it”. All I can tell you is that last night was a beautiful night and a much needed break from the stress of the holiday season.

Other than a possible show when I head home to spend time with family, this is my last show for the next week (please pray for my sanity). I hope you all have a beautiful holiday (happy belated Channukah to my fellow Jews) surrounded by friends and family!