We’re All Hiding Behind Kurt Vile’s Hair

Kurt_Vile_041516-9What makes live music good? When you attend a lot of shows, people frequently ask you about the quality of the show they skipped out on. Nevermind that you wrote about it on your blog; they’re asking you face to face, and you have to say something. The enjoyment of a show will vary from person to person, and I’m often left wondering what to use as a measure. Kurt Vile spends most of the show hidden behind long curls of brown hair, completely entranced in his own introspective guitar grooves. There’s little banter, and there’s certainly no stage spectacle or wild antics. And yet, the show last Friday at Stubb’s was utterly transfixing.

Kurt_Vile_041516-4In part, this is because the songs speak for themselves. As Vile strums the first chord or plucks the opening notes of songs like “Pretty Pimpin,” “Wakin On A Pretty Day,” or “Jesus Fever,” the crowd falls immediately under the spell of these singular, beloved songs, their melodies, riffs, and textures. With the benefit of solid sound production, these songs when played live become worlds of their own that encompass the listeners for the brief moments they exist before fading away. Vile’s music (and lyrics) find joy, heartache, and thoughtfulness in the mundane and the magnanimous, in the reality that we’re all stumbling through a sequence of fleeting moments. The songs evoke a specific mood and feeling and transport us not into a connection to the world but into a connection with ourselves. Fittingly, his live show isn’t so much as a connection between performer and audience, but an invitation to look inward in a introspective moment of self-awareness and presence.

Kurt_Vile_041516-1Rather than a barrier separating the audience from the performer, the veil of Vile’s hair makes him a universal everyman, effectively a mirror that unites us in a common individualistic experience. Vile is completely engrossed in his songs, and in the moment that we are drawn into the same reflective state, we are all hiding behind Kurt Vile’s hair, less concerned with some external world of a rock concert and more with our state of being. Our passive state of moving through the world is disrupted. The music is a vehicle to a different state, and Vile is the driver. One possible criterion for determining a live show’s greatness is not it’s ability to excite attendees but to move them. Excitement is enjoyable but can be achieved rather easily; although it may take a larger budget, the effect ultimately cheapens the experience. Kurt Vile’s emotive songs and his idiosyncratic (and authentic) demeanor move us, and the live setting adds an immediacy that draws us into ourselves and the emphatic emotion we feel in the context of these songs. The experience stirs raw emotion in attendees as we feel the full force of the music. It occurs to me that Kurt Vile disobeys the eternal edict of one of rock’s most iconic songs: “Here we are now, entertain us.” Vile refuses to climb onto the crucifix of rock, and in doing so allows us to imagine music’s function not as projection but as universal connectedness.

All photographs © Bryan C. Parker & Pop Press International; all rights reserved. Click any image to open set in slideshow viewer.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

Pop Press International © 2018 All Rights Reserved

All photos licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress