I have been to some pretty loud concerts in my day. I remember Sugar at Deep Ellum Live during my freshman year in college. Doves at the 9:30 club as a young professional just starting out in Washington, DC also left an indelible mark on my ear drums. On Monday night, Kurt Vile and the Violators set out to prove that they could one-up even the loudest Bob Mould amp setup. They made their point.
There’s something about Kurt Vile’s unlikely success that really draws me to his music. This former Philly forklift driver turned dad of two daughters by day and rockstar by night is a pretty cool story. The fact that he relays all of that in his lyrics in is laconic, wry drawl accent surrounded by some truly beautiful arrangements makes his work all the more compelling. The other side of Kurt Vile is the side that is not afraid to rock. From the first notes of “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day,” it was clear that the rockier, Dinosaur Jr. influenced side of Vile was going to tower over the folkie acoustic strummer on this Monday night.
Having lived through 30 years of concert going, there’s no doubt that this one was the loudest. And though I felt bad about possibly showing up at my daughters’ weddings in some future year not being able to hear any of the vows being exchanged, on a selfish level, I loved the noise. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vile’s more mellow outings on Smoke Ring for my Halo and the Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze but I also love the bombast and cathartic feedback on “Freak Train.” There’s something about watching a dude with Brady Bunch-worthy hair fill a thousand(s) year old Prague cellar with enough feedback to make half of the crowd leave before the encore. I’m not joking – half of the people there left. Had I not been there, I’m sure my wife would have been one of them.
My wife and I retreated back from the front of the show and I sheepishly plugged my ears as “Freak Train” exploded to its hairy close. After a short encore break, Vile and Co. returned to play a beautiful, disjointed rendition of “Baby’s Arms.” It was as if I had just witnessed a row in the preceding set and “Baby’s Arms” was Vile’s way of offering his apology. Whatever it was, it was a fitting comedown to the most bombastic event I’ve ever witnessed in Prague.
Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on who you ask.
Note: Click on the photos in this post for moving GIFs!