Kurt Vile at The Ryman Auditorium - 3/16/19
Walking the streets of downtown Nashville, I felt the essence of music. Guitars sung in the distance. The spirit of the great’s from decades before and the passion and drive of the new artists flooding the music city scene all swirled in the air like the strum of a chord. It was the end of my first Nashville experience; I spend a week with college music business students in the city, driving around to geek out at record labels, visit every music store we could find, and, of course, doing the tourist thing and strolling Broadway at night.
Being the end of the week, it was only natural to go our with a bang: something that felt like Nashville and felt like me all wrapped in one. Kurt Vile played at the classic Ryman auditorium; it was everything and more to end this trip.
The Sadies opened the night, sharing what felt like a vintage twang of americana/country having dinner with psychedelic rock. These guys brought the roof down with each tune, setting the bar and volume high for the fest of the night. They ended their driving set with a shared tune with Kurt Vile, bringing him on stage for the first time of the evening. Vile supported the tune with his stylistic vocals.
He brought in the main act with his popular, Loading Zone off of his 2018 latest album, Bottle It In. It was an automatic click with the whole crowd; everyone was there for it. Vile’s sound is like riding a strong wave; it’s smooth and driven, full of constant riffs and strums that fill the whole room.
Two things that define Kurt Vile’s sound are his unique vocal style and his mad guitar skills. He has this real laid back, conversational style to his vocals that presents his captivating lyrics in a “cool” way. His melodic lines don’t sit perfectly in the rhythmic pocket, but rather coast on top of the music; it made me wonder how much Bob Dylan he listens to.
His guitar skills are wildly underrated. First off, the man had to switch guitars after nearly every tune. From acoustic, to electric, to a banjo, to a different electric, it was evident that Vile was very aware of the timbre he was going for with each tune. In addition, his choice of riffs throughout paired with his crafted guitar solos felt refined and comfortably mastered. His guitar playing sang as much as his vocals did.
Throughout the set, he hit all the favorites a fan would hope to hear. My personal favorite moment of the set was about three fourths of the way through. The band had left him alone on stage to since a few solo tunes. He took to breath of the room with his dark colored, haunting love song, Stand Inside. Of course, he ended with an encore of “Pretty Pimpin” since no one was leaving until they heard the hit.
Moral of the story: find a chance to see this true modern musician and take it! See it in the center of the music city for bonus points.