Photo by MATT SHAVER
My friend Virginia insists that the only downside of marijuana is that it makes Kurt Vile songs go on too long. That’s simply not true. It also makes you cough and it’s very expensive. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Kurt Vile as much as the next stoner beardo of a certain age. And there’s a lot to like about him: wizardly finger picker, gorgeous Jag tone, droll Kensington hillbilly drawl, Joey Ramones’ legs, and, as of this writing, best hair in rock n’ roll. He has proven adept at mounting Burrito Brother jingle and Byrds-ian jangle onto aftermarket Petty-esque pop/rock chassis and downshifting into the ether before parking it down by the old mainstream and waiting for the fish to come to him, as they always do — with nothing more than a piece of corn and a hook. Which, in part, explains how a furry forklift operator from Lansdowne can, one decade and 13 LPs into an accidental career, pack out the gloriously restored/newly reopened Met Philadelphia on North Broad, as was the case last night.
Yes Virginia (psst…his name isn’t really Virginia), there was a lot of high plains drifting and some songs overstayed their welcome. “Wakin’ On A Pretty Day” and “Skinny Mini” clocked in just shy of the 10 minute mark and, unless I was tripping, which I can neither confirm nor deny, “Mutinies” went on for a quarter hour. Not that anyone complained. The acoustics at The Met are fairly impeccable, as was the sound man’s mix, and Vile was in fine form: relaxed and joking, dressed in crisp flannel and painted-on denim, no split ends and clearly jazzed to be here. Backed by a crack trio who traded off instruments like it wasn’t their first day at the swap meet, Vile ran down 17 choice nugs of drowsy slacker-pop with effortless efficacy and often mesmerizing results. Curiously, he did not play “One Trick Ponies” which the 44th president of the United States of America listed as one of his most favoritest songs of 2018. But, ever the empathic Bodhisattva duderino he has become in the wake of his remarkable success, Vile no doubt thought ‘why rub it in and make opening acts The Feelies and Snail Mail feel bad for not making the list?’ What a guy.
Legendary six-string mystics The Feelies, as always, looked like five aging liberal arts majors, still not sure what they are gonna major in. Strumming autumnal, they drew liberally from 1986’s Peter Buck-produced The Good Earth, which for my money remains their finest hour. The highlight being a whisper-to-a-scream reading of “Slipping (Into Something)” wherein the raga-like Velvets-y outro went full-on Sonic Youth scree circa “Expressway To Yr. Skull.” First heard in dearly-departed Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, starring an impossibly young Jeff Daniels (who is mothereffing TERRIFYING in Godless, FYI) as an uptight NYC suit about to get his bell rung by Melanie Griffith, it felt like a benediction-in-noise. And hours later, as we went gently into the bracing December night, I couldn’t have been the only one who was thinking: Good night Mr. Demme, wherever you are. — JONATHAN VALANIA
The Feelies @ Met Philly by MATT SHAVER