Kurt Vile & the Violators with Dum Dum Girls @ The Biltmore Cabaret – May 25th 2012

kurt vile

It was the first time I’d seen a line-up at the Biltmore, as I made my way up Prince Edward St. to see Kurt Vile and the Violators play. Signs were up stating that the show was sold out, another first for me. I had no idea that Kurt Vile was so popular, but people of all ages were there waiting in anticipation of the main event, foaming at the mouth for some low-fi sounds.

Tonight was a three-band line-up that started up at 9:45 with Young Prisms. Young Prisms is a four-piece from San Francisco. They play a grungy shoegaze, and fit in well with the line-up for the evening. They played a 7 song set, and their ability to play their instruments was top-notch; it was their singing however that really threw a wrench into things. The gal on lead vocals was a bit out of tune for the first song, though she picked up when she sang in later songs. The guy on lead vocals was out of tune almost the whole time he sang, and when they tried to sing harmonies on the last song they played, it wasn’t what it could’ve been. He also had about -1000 stage presence points, so it would’ve helped a lot if he’d looked like he was remotely enjoying playing.

But hey, maybe the monitors weren’t loud enough or something else was going on, as they definitely knew how to play well enough to support the albums they’ve put out. If you’re a fan of that kind of music, definitely give it a listen; their recordings sound solid.

It was about 10:15, and it was about 100°C in the Biltmore as more people showed up and the place got packed in time for the Dum Dum Girls at 11.

The Dum Dum Girls are another band originally from California, who play lo-fi noise pop and do a damn good job at writing music that’ll make you get down with your bad self. An all-female 4-piece, they were movin’, shakin’, and kicking our asses with hit after hit one minute, and playing slow and steady songs the next, as we recovered (I make it out like everyone was getting their groove on move than they were but let’s just pretend, ok?). Somehow they managed to fit 18 songs into about an hour set, closing with the words “I think I’m gonna die” in their final song. They played an awesome set, full of fire and life, and when I got home I was listening to ‘Bedroom Eyes’, ‘I Will Be’ and ‘Bhang Bhang, I’m A Burnout’ for the rest of the night. I’d definitely recommend listening to, if not seeing, this band of babes.

Kurt Vile is an odd guy with a good sense of humour, and it was shown when he was on stage doing sound check with the Violators. Strange voices and noises came from the speakers as he did his check, and it was good to know that he seemed to be enjoying himself.

Kurt Vile is a lo-fi rocker from Pennsylvania. He used to be in The War On Drugs, has often been compared to Ariel Pink and Thurston Moore (both of whom he’s worked with), and played at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival curated by The Animal Collective. So as you can tell, the man is a fairly big name, and well liked. Playing the show with his backing band the Violators, he started the night with a cover of a song by The Feelies, ‘For Awhile’. I’m not sure what exactly was going on, but for that first song, things were really off; namely the distortion and key he was singing in. Things sort of continued this way as he played through ‘Jesus Fever’, and ‘On Tour’ from his newest album Smoke Rings For My Halo, and ‘Freeway’ from Constant Hitmaker. As he played ‘Ghost Town’, things started to pick up, but it was ‘Heart Attack’ from Childish Prodigy that really blew me away. There was so much energy put into the song, and as Kurt Vile sang/screamed “…you better get your head re-screwed on” at us, it felt like the show had really started, and I the crowd was loving it.

A cover of ‘Downbound Train’ by Bruce Springsteen came next, and Vile played a mind-blowing solo, that was easily one of the biggest highlights of the night. ‘Hunchback’, and ‘Blackberry Song’ from Childish Prodigy came next, and were solid songs as well but it was when he started playing ‘Peeping Tomboy’ that the crowd got what they wanted, and they showed it. The set finished with ‘Freak Train’ which featured an awesome sax part, and finishing with a fury of noise that was slowly leaving me deaf.

The encore for the evening included ‘Baby’s Arms’, which my friend Simon pointed out that it would be a much better song if Vile was actually singing about a baby (and also added that he probably was singing about an actual baby), and ‘Dead Alive’, a great song to finish on.

So with 3 solid bands, some new favourite songs, some BIZARRE dancing that belonged in a club, rather than to a slow Kurt Vile song, and a lot of people shoving their way in and out of the crowd (find a spot, stay in that spot unless you have to pee yourself; and if someone is a dick to you because you’ve gone in and out of the crowd 24 times, don’t go whine to your friend about how they’re a big jerk), a great night was had, and eardrums were blown. Though the first few songs weren’t really up to par, Vile really flipped things around and gave an incredible and very satisfying show.

If he’s in the area, you best make your way over.

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