Tuesday, March 29, 2011

J. Mascis and Kurt Vile Played Mercury Lounge - Pictures, Review

Last Thursday we made our way to Mercury Lounge to catch what was effectively a co-headlining gig from J. Mascis and Kurt Vile. We had never seen Mascis in a solo capacity, or Vile with a full band, so it was set to be a night of exciting new music. While it didn't work out to be quite what we had expected, it was an evening of solid music nonetheless.

The night opened with newcomers (they don't even have a web site yet!) Call Of The Wild playing a frenetic set of speedy guitar rock. It was a nice amalgam of textures, and fell somewhere between metal and punk, with a good dose of melodic enthusiasm thrown in for good measure. If you see them on a bill around town, we'll tell you this: definitely worth your time.

Soon after, Kurt Vile took the stage with his band, The Violators. As mentioned, it was our first time seeing Kurt with a full band, so we weren't sure what to expect. In fact, it is a vastly different show than Kurt's solo gigs. The echoey acoustic vibe was replaced by a three guitar (and no bass!) wall of sound that completely encompassed the tiny room.

While there wasn't much in the way of feedback, the fuzzed out guitar wash still took on a life of its own, as the various textures mixed with the drum attack and Vile's distinctive melodic sense. There were a number of guitars on hand, including a back-to-basics Les Paul, a flashy glitter number, and an Vile's standard acoustic.

The selection of tunes called heavily on the most recent record, Smoke Ring For My Halo, but also dipped into the back catalog with "Freeway", and closed the night with a killer Springsteen cover. Our takeaway was nothing but positive from Vile's set, and it was a treat to see him with a full band. While the sound's completely different, it engaged his tunes at a whole other (far more energized) level.

When J. Mascis took the stage we were totally stoked and ready for some serious guitar work, and we certainly got our wish. Despite playing solo on an acoustic guitar, Mascis managed to use a Vox head and a number of pedals to put himself firmly in "electric" territory. As might be expected, his fretwork was impecable, and he tore it up with some serious solos.

The setlist was varied, and in addition to pulling from his most recent solo effort Several Shades Of Why, he also dipped into the later (non-Barlow) Dinosaur Jr. catalog. Hearing "Get Me" live on an acoustic guitar was, to say the least, a treat.

The only misstep in Mascis' set came with the somewhat confusing addition of a flute player. We weren't totally clear on what this added to his sound, or why the addition was made. Yet there she was, halfway through the set, fluting away. We're not ones to stifle creativity, but the flute's presence really took away from J's guitar, and we could have done without it. Nonetheless, his amazing fretwork and songwriting easily made up for it, and closed the night leaving us quite pleased we had made our way out to the show.

More pictures in the HAD Archive