Live Review: Thurston Moore + Kurt Vile @ The Rickshaw Theatre – July 21st 2011

For the past few years I have been waiting for music to return to a more lofi standard (wishful thinking). Lots of groups out there are only in existance because of Protools or other programs designed to polish the end result. These tools help the Justin Beibers of the world to maintain a falsely perfect sound. To me this is not right, but hey, that is just my humble opinion.

My love for music is about passion, energy, emotion, connection and expression. This even includes all the hiccups and flaws that are made along the way. That is why I love most singer/songwriters, they play from the heart. They mean every strum on their guitar, and every note echoing from their mouths. Sure over time the sound gets more polished, but the idea is simple, expression through music; it is glorious.

Last night I was able to catch a beautiful display of two such artists, Thurston Moore and Kurt Vile. Both artists played captivating sets at the Rickshaw Theater on Hastings. Adding to that was the presence of a great crowd, who interacted with both performers in such a playful way. It all meshed together to be a fun and memorable evening. One that helped me remember why I love live music.

After the opening act (Hush Arbors) left the stage, they announced Kurt Vile would be up shortly. A small number of eager beavers made way to the stage front and took position in anticipation of his arrival. A stream of roadies came out from the backdrop and started setting up the stage. Within a few minutes Mr.Vile had joined them. He walked back and forth tinkering with pedals and plugs. It took a long time for the band to set up, to the point where the crowd was getting a little antsy, even calling out to him to start playing. Kurt just looked over the audience and smiled. He seemed to be a very gentle soul.

Kurt Vile & The Violators proceeded to play a sweet little set. My favorite part of which was Freak Train, which had this raspy screaming vocal matched with this jazzy saxophone backdrop. The whole presentation was understated and emotional. Kurt and crew were smiling from ear to ear. It was just a plain great set, the kind you hope to see. I feel like this young musician could end up to be a force in the near future. He is organized, talented, and he plays music for music lovers, lookout for this one.

Next up was Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth fame). Talk about a landmark in music, this man is grunge and subpop incarnate. Besides Kurt Cobain not many other people get immediately associated to the grunge scene. I mean sure there were a plethora of acts to come from that time period, but very few were actually grunge music. Sonic Youth, The Meat Puppets, Nirvana, The Butthole Surfers, these were the bands I think of. And now there stood Mr. Moore, with a grin on his face and a guitar in his hand. I was excited.

To start the show off he took a moment to setup a projector on the floor near his feet. He quickly pointed out there was no screen behind him, so he was going to use the next best thing; the roof. So there, above the bands head, 30 feet in the air, were the flickering black and white images of some obsqure video. It added a little texture to the ambience in the room. Possibly a little strange, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from this eccentric lead.

Thurston and his fellows started into their set with Mina Loy (Onyx Eyes), and from there on in it was one sweet track after the other. They played with a certain spark that kept everything fun and care free.

Mr.Moore sure loved to banter with the mob before him. One moment he would be talking about his wife Kim, and her influences on him over the years and the next he would be talking about how the band made a pitstop at a thrift store so the drummer could buy some art. It added a tone of intimacy to the night, making everything feel a little more personal.

I would say that this was one of those unexpectedly great shows you see throughout your lifetime. I went in with little to no thought on how it would be, and left with a genuine respect and love for both performers. After the acts had retired behind the stage, and the horde was starting to vacate. I found myself at the merch table, spending some money on vinyl. Not because I needed more music for my collection, but out of respect for the artists and sheer excitement over the show they had just put forth. Thurston Moore and Kurt Vile I salute you.
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