Kurt Vile and the Violators – July 31, 2012 – Meet Factory – Prague, Czech Republic

Kurt Vile - Prague - Meet Factory

I wanna write my whole life down
Burn it there to the ground
I wanna sing at, top of my lungs
For fun, screamin’ annoyingly
‘Cause that’s just me bein’ me, bein’ free

Kurt Vile – “On Tour”

John Hiatt introduced me to the idea of a musician as “a lifer” when I interviewed him many years ago.  The concept is pretty simple.  It just means that the musician in question is going to keep on writing, recording and touring until he drops.  I would imagine that Kurt Vile imagines himself a lifer as well.  Four albums into his career, it’s hard to see him doing anything else.

Tuesday night’s show was fairly well attended for the day of the week and the relative obscurity of a guy like Vile in the Czech Republic.  The crowd that did show up appeared to be full of pretty serious fans.  That said, never have I seen so many people in their mid-20’s make out one minute and then sing along to the words of the song the next.  That was some serious multi-tasking.  I’ve also never had that many shots spilled on my feet as the same demographic brought round after round up to the front of the stage for their friends.  I don’t begrudge them.  It was just sort of inexplicable.

But it was strangely fitting for a Kurt Vile concert.  His songs careen from romantic finger plucked acoustic ballads to feedback-drenched, drone fests.  Despite my impression from various YouTube clips and laconic singing on his albums that Vile is a classic stoner, he looked unbelievably lucid and technically solid at Tuesday’s show.  Stage banter was largely not-existent and his band struggled to keep up with him as one tune ended and another began.

The set list contained about 50% of the songs from “Smoke Ring for My Halo” and the rest from other releases.  His backing band, The Violators, lent some serious heft to the occasion.  On “Freak Train,” the whole band made some serious, ear-splitting noise.  Alternately, on songs like “Peeping Tomboy,” restraint and the folky side of Vile showed through.  It’s this space between loud and soft that Vile seems to travel with ease.  So much so that if he ever puts out a best of album, I’d recommend calling it “Songs to Make and Rock Out To.”

Sting at the Omaha Civic Auditorium 8-30-85

Sting Ticket

I’ve been having a pretty great time messing around with the ultimate music nerd’s web site over the last several days.  The site is SongKick and it is a database of every concert that has ever happened.  Well, at least it’s trying to be.  It’s another angle on social networking and this one leans heavily on concert goers/music nerds.

Here’s how it works: A user signs in, sets up a profile and then proceeds to spend hours looking up concerts that he/she has attended.  You can post setlists, memorabilia and the like.  It’s actually more addictive than it sounds and has really succeeded in mining some deep musical memories for me.  Included in those memories is my first “real” concert – Sting at the Omaha Civic Auditorium on August 30th, 1985.  I was 12 years old and man, was I excited.

I remember seeing the ad for the concert in the entertainment section of the Omaha World Herald some time in May of that year and thinking I would never be able to get my scrawny butt to Omaha for this date with destiny.  Not to mention, school would have started by then.  But somehow, the fates smiled and after my older brother got recruited as my “chaperone,” it was all set to happen.  I went to the Brandeis ticket outlet at the Conestoga Mall and plopped down my $13 and change for the show.  (I think I had to borrow the money from my folks having already spent that month’s earnings on a giant pack of roll caps, Big League Chew and Fun Dip.  Amazing how fast $10 goes at age 12.)  I got in line as soon as the ticket window opened that morning and there were about 7 people in line before me.  I feared a sellout.  My fears were unwarranted.

When my turn was up, the lady behind the counter showed me a seating chart and I took several minutes to pick out a seat that matched my financial means and desire to see the ex-Police frontman turned jazzman up close.  I ended up with a frontish-row balcony seat on the right side.  When the woman handed me the ticket, I was blown away.  It was thick, cardboard-like and green.  Really, really green.  The way they had written “STING” really popped.  I was beside myself with happiness.

The show itself was incredible.  Sting was on fire and it was a great mix of the “Dream of the Blue Turtles” album and classic Police hits reworked.  As for my brother, he met some friends of his there.  I hung out with them for a while before the show, just after he had convinced them that I was young but still cool enough to hang out.  (He must have thought I knew how to keep my mouth shut, too because I remember nearly falling over when I saw him smoking a cigarette. )  We watched the concert from the pre-selected seats but my bro eventually managed to get me to the floor on the side of the stage when the show was over so we could see Sting run off the stage and into his dressing room.  My 12 year old mind was completely blown.

I also remember that the music played on the PA before the show included Bob Marley’s “Jammin'” and I thought it was a great tune.  I think of that show every time I hear it.

I guess that concert kindled a passion for this stuff in me.  I’ve been to hundreds of bars, auditoriums and music halls to see bands since then but there is no way the memory of this show can ever be surpassed.  I laminated the ticket and hung it on my bulletin board for years.  With the advent of the CD jewel case, it and the concrete memory of this show made their way into the back insert of “Dream of the Blue Turtles” and remain there to this day.