The Casual Concert Experience with Kurt Vile and the Violators

As the people who are closest to me (and the people who have casually met me once or twice) know, live music and concerts are a huge part of my life. Going to see a band is always special, always wonderful, and simply never gets old– at least it hasn’t in the 12 years between my first concert and today. I don’t like to miss openers, I don’t like to be far away from the stage, and I want to take some time at the end of the show for a trip to the merch table. But I sort of knew that my experience with Kurt Vile at the State Theatre in Portland wasn’t really going to look like that.

I’ve been trying to see KV for about a year now. Last summer a dive into his collaborative album with Courtney Barnett turned into a deep love of his entire catalog. He’s basically all that I listened to in June of 2018. My concert buddy summed it up best when she said that KV is the exception that proves the rule of my taste in music.

So after just missing him in Portland and just missing him in Toronto, I finally got the chance to see Kurt Vile and the Violators in my stomping ground as part of their summer 2019 tour. I invited my brother and sister and was glad to have them come along with me, and planned a whole weekend full of family time around this one very special night.

Which brings me to the thing about this concert that made it different from the other shows I’ve gone to this year. Even though Kurt Vile is one of my favorite musicians, the concert wasn’t the center of the day. We showed up at about 9:15, two hours after doors, and already a few songs into Kurt Vile’s set. For a while when I realized we were going to be late, I was pretty stressed out. I’m used to showing up two or three hours before doors at bands that I really care about, and thought that by showing up late some taste-police officer was going to take my “Kurt Vile fan” license as I walked in. But there is no such police person.

Kurt’s set was spectacular. We got into the venue when he was mid-performance, in time to hear “Bassackwards,” from his most recent release Bottle It In, which I loved. From there we treated ourselves to a night of hippie swaying, nodding our heads to the rambling songs and cheering when Kurt switched from his subdued singing voice to full punk screaming. There were 7 or 8 dudes in the audience who were practically moshing to the twangy guitar solos, their behavior both completely out of place and just right. There wasn’t much to the “performance,” just a bunch of guys playing their instruments together for a crowd. It felt like we were all hanging out.

There was a huge downside for me in terms of getting there late, which was that my siblings and I were in “the path.” The State Theatre in Portland has a tiered GA floor, with two different sections before the theatre style sitting area. To get from the first tier back to the bar, a path always emerges, and getting to the show late earned us a spot directly in the way of the path. We were moving out of the way for people trying to make it to the back of the venue multiple times a song. I don’t think this would have been as annoying to me if I was more used to being further from the stage at GA events.

I did leave this show feeling like I had finally fulfilled an appointment. I think that the way that I saw him was perfect for the type of music that he plays, and for the type of evening I wanted to have with my family. Setlist highlights, obviously “Pretty Pimpin’,” a hit from KV’s 2017 album b’lieve I’m goin down…, “Runner Ups,” and “Check Baby,” a favorite of mine.

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