Kurt Vile Blasted Through Material New And Old At His Taronga Zoo Gig
On my nearly two hour trip from Thirroul to Mosman, I was anxiously preparing for news that the Kurt Vile show I was on my way to might be washed away in torrential rainfall, making me the idiot who dragged his plus one to Sydney for no reason whatsoever.
Thankfully we received no such news and found a soggy spot on the hill just as Mick Turner was getting started. He proved an interesting player to watch, noodling through soft guitar melodies somewhat reminiscent of Yo La Tengo’s ‘Return to Hot Chicken’ set to clumsy drum loops, if you can imagine Mick Turner doing such a thing.
Although not intentional, his dysfunctional drum programming added some degree of charm to the performance. Dirty Three play loose, and what we were seeing was essentially digitised interpretation of that.
As soon as Turner wrapped up, the rain really picked up. By the time Vile started playing he was barely audible over the sound of the pouring rain and the rustling of 500 ponchos, so we headed down the front just in time to hear the last couple of minutes of ‘Feel My Pain’. A nice, neutral opening song; not from the new album, but not especially old material either. He followed this with two from B’lieve I’m Goin Down, belting out the impressive ‘Pretty Pimpin’.
Not long after that, Vile started taking requests. I don’t know whether the calls for ‘Ocean City’ and ‘Ghost Town’ informed the rest of his set, but I was surprised to find there were at least three songs from 2008’s Constant Hitmaker that made the cut that evening. Sadly there was no ‘Space Forklift’, but the marriage of Vile's new material and the old meant we got to witness a rich tapestry of his songwriting in its most base and stripped back form.
This was Vile in his element. You could tell – he stopped at one point to thanks us all for letting him jerk off on stage for a bit. After what was possibly the shortest encore break I’ve ever seen (seriously, we waited about eight seconds) he was back on to bash out ‘Peeping Tomboy’. Admittedly, seeing him without a band was a first for me – but a lot of his material features acoustic guitar and simple drum loops anyway. Seeing him strip his music down to its barest elements, therefore, was magical.