Sometimes in life:
a.) you think a band is bigger than they really are.
b.) your local music scene just doesn’t know what’s what or who’s who. (yeah that’s right CT I’m calling you out on this one)
c.) it’s a Monday night in June and all the local college kids have gone home for the summer
d.) all of the above.
Despite being everyone’s least favorite misleading multiple-choice answer, (fucking “all of the above”) the dedicated fans of three top-notch acts were treated to a night of psych-rock, avant-raga/blues, and slow-fi/indie folk. I bet you didn’t even know those were genres. To be fair I just made up “slow-fi” but I am kind of digging it. Stay with me, I will explain.
Zzones kicked off the night and we really good sports despite the relatively small crowd that arrived early to check out the western mass psych-rock four piece featuring John Moloney of Chelsea Light Moving and frequent collaborator with Thurston Moore. Their set was solid and they were very gracious despite the thin turnout. However, the crowd really began to fill in in anticipation of Steve Gunn’s set.
Steve Gunn is a Brooklyn based guitar virtuoso originally from the Philly suburb of Landsdowne, PA and one time guitarist in Kurt Vile’s backing band The Violators. There’s no doubt however, that Gunn was meant to be in the spotlight, sharing his beautiful Sandy Bull, John Fahey, Robbie Basho inspired hybrid compositions with us. His set included everything from electric blues based tunes to acoustic finger picking avant-folk songs and even some acoustic guitar run through his effects pedals oscillating between what felt like an acoustic and an electric. The majority of the tracks were from his 2013 album “Time Off” including “Water Wheel”, “Lurker”, “Street Keeper”, and “Old Strange”. If you’ve not had the opportunity to hear his albums or see him live I strongly encourage any and all fans of the folk/blues guitar genre to check him out.
Despite my own personal admiration for Steve Gunn, the majority of the audience that night were of course there to see headliners Kurt Vile and the Violators. I too was intrigued being a relative newcomer to his music and generally impressed with his records. I only wish I could say the same for their live show, which struggled early on but thankfully gained momentum as the evening wore on. During the first few tracks, which included Wakin’ On a Pretty Day off of their critically acclaimed 2013 release “Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze” and Jesus Fever and On Tour from 2011’s Smoke Ring for My Halo, Kurt Vile spent a good deal of time stomping on pedals and turning knobs in search of the right sound. There were often abrupt sound changes from a flat acoustic sound to a rebverbed electric sound with little or no transition. There was also a moment when bassist Rob Laakso joined in on the keyboard only to eek out a sad little squeaky tone, which caused him to raise an eyebrow as if to say “oh well, that’s not what it’s supposed to sound like” when looking over to Vile on his left. After a couple of solo songs from Vile himself, The Violators rejoined him for some excellent cuts including “He’s Alright”, “Too Hard”, “Peeping Tomboy”, and “KV Crimes” as one of the two encores.
So let’s review, sometimes in life you should:
a.) go see a band that’s really not as big as everyone thinks they are
b.) go see a band even if you’ve never heard of them before but you’ve heard good things from your friends or read about them on StGA.
c.) go to a show on a Monday night in June (or any other month for that matter)
d.) do all of the above
Oh, “all of the above” you’re so misunderstood.