As fans of Kurt Vile’s minimalist, ambient-acoustic underground dream rants on Childish Prodigy, The Spin anticipated the sort of gratification one receives when a recording artist travels to the city where one lives to perform those songs that breathed fresh air to the ear upon the album’s release. The live show should illuminate a band’s aesthetic and cast light into those cerebral caverns that listening alone leaves dark. In other words, you gotta see it to believe it. And since music is our church, believin’ is everything.
Like The Spin, openers The Soft Pack possess an affinity for well-driven, Feelies-tempo college rock, especially when flourished with those little uplifting surf-rock solos (you know, like the Kids in the Hall theme or Pixies’ “Cecilia Ann”) that, for all their dirty-Chuck Taylor-affirming splendor, would be really easy to play on Guitar Hero.
No offense to opening-opening act and dyslexic potty-mouths Purling Hiss, but they were done by the time we got there at the reasonably rockish hour of 10 p.m. Since we like elbow room, and feel self-conscious standing in front of shorter people, an undersold Mercy Lounge was not a bad thing. While we suggested Vandy’s homecoming as a culprit for the low turnout, Mercy's John Bruton asserted folks were conserving their cheddar for the upcoming Blonde Redhead show. With deference to Mr. Bruton, we returned to The Soft Pack, who rewarded our ear. Dudes should’ve had a tip jar.
The rest of the night was a wash. Vile and his band (the Violators) sound-checked for an absurd 20 minutes. While we thought that any band that spent that much time toying with their gear should be guaranteed to deliver a real rock ’n’ roll experience, what we got, unfortunately, was a cheap drywall of sound composed of three overly reverberating guitars (no bass), a drum machine and Vile’s nasally snarl. Knowing that these first three songs might just be earlier, less familiar material, we leaped at the opportunity when Vile sarcastically (we think) solicited requests from the audience: We yelled, “Blackberry!” Call us self-centered, but it was the only decent song he would play all night, in a set that barely lasted 40 minutes. We remember Vile stating in an interview, “You have to bust your ass, play live all the time … keep working hard playing shows.” Busted!