Review: Kurt Vile makes his Spokane debut in downtempo and chill mode at Knitting Factory

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By Taylor D. Waring

For the spokesperson’s review

Lo-fi Americana artist Kurt Vile and the Violators were joined by Chastity Belt at Knitting Factory on Thursday night, and Spokane indie rock fans were treated to a refreshing evening of downtempo grooves and nonchalant dancing.

Chastity Belt, originally formed in Walla Walla while its members attended Whitman College, opened the night with their brand of dreamy indie rock. With a Portland hipster aesthetic that’s cooler than you, Chastity Belt’s songs explore superficiality with sardonic lyricism. They performed their tracks “Fear” and “Different Now”, among others.

They were followed by headliner Kurt Vile. Philadelphia artist Vile got his start in the early 2000s experimenting with lo-fi home recordings before joining the war on drugs as a guitarist.

He left to pursue his solo career, eventually reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative charts with “Pretty Pimpin,” a downtempo track with quirky, semi-modernist lyrical leanings in its irony and discussion of self-alienation.

At the start of his set, Vile covered “Punks in the Beerlight” by Silver Jews, a highly influential indie rock band fronted by David Berman. Berman, a brilliant and versatile musician, illustrator and poet, died in August 2019.

Although not a national idol, Berman has a substantial cult following, both for his work with the Silver Jews and his unique poetry book, “Actual Air.”

Throughout his 90-minute set, Vile played tracks from throughout his career with a focus on his new album, “Watch My Moves,” including the acoustic bop “Cool Water” and the heavier “Like Exploding Stones”.

Vile also performed fan favorites like “Pretty Pimpin” and “Bassackwards.”

Although he is a well-known musician, Vile’s stage presence and demeanor are modest. Relatively shy and reserved on and off stage, Vile doesn’t command the crowd, but he has an almost ethereal presence.

It’s as if Vile fans are watching him in his practice space or at home, gently pacing each song, which creates a freeing, stress-free atmosphere that’s kind of a rarity at Knitting Factory.

The two groups seemed to show a real affinity for each other. Before his set, Vile unassumingly watched Chastity Belt perform on the side stage and donned his woodcut-looking heavy metal shirt that read “Cool Slut” (one of the band’s songs) across the top. During Vile’s set, three Chastity Belt members danced to Vile’s music in the sound pit.

Kurt Vile and the Violators will be touring throughout the summer, both in the United States and with select international dates in support of “Watch My Moves”.

After a successful debut in Spokane, Vile would be warmly welcomed back to Spokane.

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