A familiar entity at local Philadelphia shows was a bushy-haired musician named Kurt Vile, a guy who would pass out copies of CD-Rs with his songs. Matador Records eventually caught on after Vile officially released a compilation of these tracks on 2008’s Constant Hitmaker and signed him to a record deal.
Steeped in psych-rock, 2009’s Childish Prodigy marked the laconic singer’s debut on Matador, but he really broke out on the follow-up, Smoke Ring for My Halo, an ethereal and sedated masterpiece that found Vile writing more accessible psychedelia. Vile took a chill pill on 2013’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze, an album with songs that often surpass the 5-minute mark—the opener stretches on for more than 9 minutes.
Vile’s latest, b’lieve i’m goin down, was recorded at Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree and the record certainly has a secluded, desert vibe. Ironically, the album also contains Vile’s most radio-friendly tune, “Pretty Pimpin.”
In advance of his first ever Milwaukee performance, let’s get acquainted with some of Vile’s best songs.
“Freak Train” – A scorching five-minute track from Childish Prodigy. “One day I’m gonna get me enough gold to get me/ Where I wanna go comfortably,” Vile sings. But for now, he’s forced to ride the freak train.
“Baby’s Arms” – The opener from Smoke Ring for My Halo is the most somber, sweetest love song in Vile’s catalog.
“The Hunchback” – Along with “Freak Train,” this track is a staple at live shows. The droning, chugging guitars lurch forward slowly but they still seem unstoppable.
“Freeway” – This Constant Hitmaker track sounds like a long lost War on Drugs song (that band’s singer Adam Granduciel played in Vile’s backing band The Violators at the time) and hinted at the more accessible sound Vile would find in the near future.
“Walking on a Pretty Day” – “It’s hard to explain/ My love in this daze” Vile sings on the weightless Waking on a Pretty Daze opener. It’s a 9-minute long song, but everything seems to take place over the course of three tidy minutes. Stick around for that killer solo.
“Downbound Train” – Vile updates Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA track with some noise and a sneer.
Kurt Vile & The Violators headline the Pabst Theater on Tuesday, April 5 with opener Purling Hiss.
The city’s local scene is flooded with musicians indebted to folk traditions—pop into a Riverwest bar on a weekday night to see what I mean. String Fling, a two-day mini-festival at The Hotel Foster, assembles some of the city’s finest folk performers and showcases their ability behind acoustic instruments. Wednesday night’s bill features Old Soul Society, Pay The Devil, Ugly Brothers and Joseph Huber and Thursday night concludes the festivities with Jay Matthes, The Whiskeybelles, Vitrolum Republic and Thistledown Thunders. Advance tickets are available a single night ($8) or both ($15). Day of the show tickets are ($10).
Stream of the Week
Member of legendary (and sometimes active) local group Decibully and Sylvan Esso producer Nick Sanborn returns home with a solo show at Cactus Club on Friday, April 8 under his electronic music moniker Made of Oak. Listen to his latest EP, the five-song Penumbra.
This Week in Live Music
Monday, April 4: The Suitcase Junket with Hayward Williams at Cactus Club, 9 p.m. ($7) – (2496 S. Wentworth Ave., CactusClubMilwaukee.com)
Tuesday, April 5: Kurt Vile & The Violators with Purling Hiss (solo) at The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m. ($20) – (144 E. Wells St., PabstTheater.org)
Also: DMA’s with The Rashita Joneses and Brat Sounds at Cactus Club, 9 p.m. ($10) – (2496 S. Wentworth Ave., CactusClubMilwaukee.com)
Wednesday, April 6: String Fling (night one) featuring Old Soul Society, Pay The Devil, Ugly Brothers and Joseph Huber at The Hotel Foster, 8 p.m. ($8 advance, $10 door, $15 two-day pass) – (2028 E. North Ave., TheHotelFoster.com)
Au Revoir with Atsuko Chiba, Dismantle and Downer at Quarters Rock ‘n Roll Palace, 8 p.m. ($6) – (900 E. Center St.)
Thursday, April 7: String Fling (night two) featuring Jay Matthes, The Whiskeybelles, Vitrolum Republic and Thistledown Thunders at The Hotel Foster, 8 p.m. ($8 advance, $10 door, $15 two-day pass) – (2028 E. North Ave., TheHotelFoster.com)
Fast Romantics with Sugar Ransom & thesecretpistols at Cactus Club, 9 p.m. ($8) – (2496 S. Wentworth Ave., CactusClubMilwaukee.com)
Also: Galactic with Bombino at Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m. ($29.50) – (1032 N. 4th St., PabstTheater.org)
Friday, April 8: Ani DiFranco with Chastity Brown at Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m. ($35) – (1032 N. 4th St., PabstTheater.org)
Also: Made of Oak with Chris Rosenau at Cactus Club, 9 p.m. ($15) – (2496 S. Wentworth Ave., CactusClubMilwaukee.com)
And: Typesetter with Geena, 83 Wolfpack and Direct Hit! at Bremen Cafe, 9 p.m. (FREE) – (901 E. Clarke St., BremenCafe.com)
And: HÆLOS with Pharo at The Back Room at Colectivo Coffee on Prospect, 8 p.m. ($13 advance, $15 door)
And: Audacity with Midnight Reruns, Platinum Boys and Rumble at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m. ($8) – (1001 E. Locust St., Linnemans.com)
And: Low Down Sound (Open Arms benefit show) at Club Garibaldi, 7 p.m. – (2501 S. Superior St., ClubGaribaldis.com)
Saturday, April 9: Notaword (reunion show) with Greatest Lakes and Estates at Cactus Club, 9 p.m. – (2496 S. Wentworth Ave., CactusClubMilwaukee.com)
Also: The Delta Routine with Donoma at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m. ($8) – (1001 E. Locust St., Linnemans.com)
And: Dr. Chow’s Love Medicine at Circle A Cafe, 8 p.m. – (932 E. Chambers St., Circle-A-Café.org)