Kurt Vile & The Violators
With VBA, Band in Heaven, and Beach Fossils
Grand Central, Miami
Friday, November 1, 2013
Kurt Vile is the unassuming anti-rock star for a new generation.
As a guitarist, Vile brings an understated athleticism to his playing that perfectly suits the charming and often revealing songs that have earned him a tentative spot in the pantheon of great songwriters.
The magic of Vile's music (particularly the work off his most recent release, Wakin on a Pretty Daze) is in its intimacy. So appropriately, this past weekend's performance by Vile and his band, the Violators, at Miami's Grand Central, was a tender, ethereal rock 'n' roll experience.
We doubt, though, he will be casting his song spells on these kinds of smaller clubs for much longer.
See also: Kurt Vile on Pretty Daze: "Who Lately Has Opened an Album With a Nine-Minute Song?"
The night was kicked off by VBA, a band that features drummer Vince Nudo of Priestess (as well as the Violators), and a band that has a split release in the works with Vile.
The set was a distillation of all that is great in gazin' psych rock: Loud, fuzzy, and with a bit of punk rock attitude. VBA was fantastic, if sort of an aural oddity on the bill.
West Palm Beach's rising stars of psych-pop, The Band in Heaven, followed VBA and offered a blend of breezy psych and airy textures to a crowd that'd begun to swell in size. The group's single, "Dandelion Wine," was an early highlight as the night settled into a nice, otherworldly vibe.
Though a fan called out for The Band in Heaven's Spaceman 3 cover, the crowd were forced to settle for more of the quintet's own great originals, which we here at Crossfade were completely cool with.
Next up was Beach Fossils, which might've ended up being the biggest band to come from the increasingly saturated lo-fi rock scene if Cole Smith had remained a member and brought the group the amount of attention that his offstage behavior has afforded DIIV.
Still, Beach Fossils' music, a wash of twinkling post-surf guitar and distant vocals, has brought the Brooklyn band no shortage of love.
And the outfit's performance -- its first in Florida ever -- was met by an excited audience that shouted lyrics, danced like the attendees of an '80s prom, and held cherubic frontman, Dustin Payseur, high overhead in moments of rock 'n' roll drama that belied the demure sounds that the Beach Fossils guys were conjuring.
The energy of Beach Fossils' set was certainly amped-up compared to the albums, and drummer Tommy Gardner added a ton of weight to the band's songs without transforming them into something entirely unrecognizable.
The band closed its set with fan favorite "12 Roses" and an oddly improvised freestyle verse that Payseur delivered from his perch atop the hands of crowd members.
Not too long later, Vile took the stage and immediately began to dispatch his monotone "yeahs" and "oohs" from beneath a mop of perfectly parted hair.
The songwriter's first reports of folk-infused rock brought the crowd close to the stage, but despite the large audience that danced and chattered below, Vile appeared to be utterly alone on stage. The early part of the set featured plenty of off of Wakin..., all of which were given new life through the playing Vile's impeccable group of Violators.
Stage banter was generally kept to a minimum.
At one point, Vile asked if anyone in the audience had a yacht, no doubt looking to experience the Miami of lore following the show. While no one spoke up, we did see Vile wandering about Gramps Bar for a while later.
For us, the highlight of Vile's set came when the Violators took a break and left him alone for a few minutes.
Armed with just an acoustic guitar, the songwriter gave a performance of "Peeping Tomboy" that silenced many in the room (obviously a Miami crowd could never be expected to stay quiet for long) and saw Vile deep in his element, alone with his art in a roomful of people.
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The show ended with an encore performance of "Runner Ups" after Vile wryly asked the audience for requests.
Wispy verses ended the night perfectly, letting the crowd down gently and affording Vile yet another brilliant moment of emotional nudity.