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Review Sun Oct 25 2015

Kurt Vile and the Violators were Pretty Pimpin' at Thalia Hall

kurtvile1.jpg One of the big upsets about Pitchfork Music Festival this year was the rainfall that cut a few sets short, including that of Kurt Vile and the Violators. I didn't get to see any of his three song set and felt a little distraught by that. Vile's folk rock that has some country credence to it sound would have been for the festival atmosphere. Luckily, with a new album b'lieve i'm goin down being released, I knew I would get a chance to hear him live relatively soon.This past weekend Vile brought his Violators, along with Waxahatchee and Luke Roberts, to Thalia Hall for two sold out shows. I was in attendance the first night and it was worth the wait.

Luke Roberts stepped onto the stage with his band quite casually, seeming devoid of arrogance or ego. Roberts quietly introduced himself and his song "Somewhere to Run," which let the audience in on his striking voice. It contrasted Roberts between songs where he remained passive, offering little more than grateful thank you and a single shush to quieten the talkative audience at the start of his set. I don't think he really needed to say much. His songs have these incredibly raw and emotive lyrics that make it easy to become captivated and feel connected to Roberts not just as a musician on stage but as if he were on old friend detailing his hardships and life doubts.

Roberts questions inability to find his role in faith during "His Song," while "Old Fashioned Woman" laments the cost of a tragic sense of love. Every single word was sung with a heavy heart that clearly had felt the sensations that were being uttered. Roberts was joined by Kurt Vile for "On Spotted Clothes," subtlety harmonizing with one other beautifully. What was most intriguing was that the crowd seemed ambivalent to Vile's appearance, barely noticing him perform. I would chalk it up to Roberts gripping presence.

I had seen Katie Crutchfield and her Waxahatchee band perform at Pitchfork Musical Festival earlier this year, so I had some expectations for the group. The open air of Union Park let Crutchfield sound majestic and wonderful, so I was pleasantly surprised when that quality was amplified in the confines of Thalia Hall. Waxahatchee started the set off with "Under A Rock," which stands as the strongest example of Ivy Tripp which was just releasing in the spring. The song embodies the sounds of '90s indie rock to tee without being a slave to the aesthetic. "The Dirt" also takes the band, which includes her twin sister Allison, down a road drenched nostalgic hazy melodies.

Right in the middle of her set, Crutchfield set her guitar aside for an amazing cover of Lucinda Williams's "I Lost It". The song fit in line with the rest of her forthcoming lyrics especially as her voice added a certain touch of gravity and sadness. She followed that with her own "Brother Bryan" and "<" , letting the melancholy notes continues as the fuzzy guitars and rumbling drums echo on . This is where Waxahatchee's strength lies, in the sad and sometimes heated songs that were let out with a sly smile on Crutchfield's face.

The wait between Waxahatchee's set and Kurt Vile's seemed to last an eternity (or more accurately 40+ minutes). But that didn't put a damper on things as it became clear the Kurt Vile and his band the Violators were going to be worth the wait. Vile emerged from the side of the stage to a triumphant applause before jumping right into "Dust Bunnies." His voice cut through the song, playing slightly faster and meaner than on the record. His long hair cascaded down the front of his face, obscuring it for the majority of the night. It gave him a lackadaisical look of mystery whether he thrashed his guitars and kicked the air or stood ominously still while serenading the crowd.

Much like Roberts earlier in the evening, Vile didn't need to meander through conversation between songs. A few high pitched woos and asking if everyone was alright were the only things he needed to say. Vile's strange but loveable singing voice was clearly the star of the set, sounding loud and clear through his band's warbled instrumentation. There was no amount of flowing locks or fuzz filled guitars that could hide his voice and that was quite alright. It paralleled his latest album b'lieve i'm goin down, where his songs wear their emotion right on their sleeve. "Pretty Pimpin'" in particular took advantage of his voice being so centered in the mix, allowing for his cadence to dance around the crowd recklessly.

Even with his voice taking most of the attention, there was still a ton of time devoted to the reverb pulsing through his various guitars, which he switched out every song. Literally, I don't think there were two songs in a row where he used the same instrument. From eclectic to acoustic guitars and even a banjo, Vile's finesse seemed endless. During the "Wheelhouse," Vile and the Violators took their time with long spans of instrumentation that were astonishing. It laid a cool mellow on the crowd as the swayed along to their satisfying noodling.

After an hour or so, Vile ended his set with a single song encore of "Runner Ups." It would be the second time that Vile stood on the stage alone with only his guitar in hand. the colorful lights of previous songs were replaced by a row of white ones. It made for a softer moment, distilling Vile and the song to their purest forms. "My best friend's long gone but I got runner ups" was sung with more lonely conviction, setting the song among his best. at the end of the track Vile returned to a fun stance, sending the crowd off with a promise of seeing them the next night. Considering how great that first evening was, I wouldn't be surprised if quite a few met him on his promise.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
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