Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sweating to a Constant Hitmaker

Tonight's show will be remembered for three things: hair, heat and the banana peel.

When it was announced that Kurt Vile would play Strange Matter, many local music lovers were amazed that we'd get to hear him in such a small room and got tickets immediately.

Not surprisingly, by yesterday, the show had sold out and the less proactive music fans were out of luck.

Anticipating a capacity crowd, I arrived shortly before the music was to start at 6:00, which was unusual in and of itself.

Because Strange Matter had already booked a later show before Vile made his plans to come to RVA known, his ended up being an early show.

My timely arrival had allowed me to stake a claim to a piece of the bench on the wall near the stage, key because I knew the place would eventually be mobbed.

A friend soon arrived to join me.

So, with rain pouring outside, pollen-covered puddles everywhere and the humidity climbing in the un-air-conditioned interior, the show kicked off in broad daylight.

Sore Eros began the show and their almost ambient but definitely rock benefited from the lead singer's unexpectedly sweet voice.

I was especially fond of the 90s-like guitar sound which still managed to have a pop sensibility. I was just sorry their set was so short.

And by then it was getting hotter by the minute in the fanless, uncooled room.

Next up were Supreme Dicks, a band begun in 1982 and one both Sore Eros and Kurt Vile admired.

Kind of experimental, kind of noise rock, even psychedelic, these guys had a performance artist as part of their set.

Not far into their set, she began eating a banana in time to the music, eventually mounting the peel on her head where it remained for the rest of their show.

You can't do that sort of thing and not expect the audience to be confused.

"How does that peel stay on her head?" my girlfriend asked. I had to assume the heat had adhered it to her hair.

"I think she's going with a kiwi next," a girl behind me said.

A guy observed, "I want her to officiate at my wedding."

She went on to peel and eat an orange, recite poetry ("I feel so dirty, I feel so flirty, I wanna feel clean"), shake her red tambourine menacingly at the crowd and claw at her face, all while the band played on.

This is when the bench became especially helpful, since it allowed me a much higher vantage point to see the performance art that was unfolding onstage.

Many in the audience seemed confused, but Kurt Vile himself stood by the stage to take in most of their set.

Once they finished, massive texts must have gone out because all of a sudden, the overheated room was at capacity.

One thing immediately became clear onstage; there's a lot of hair on Kurt Vile and the Violators.

"Do you think there's a hair rule that his has to be the longest?" a friend asked looking at four longhairs and a guy with the best curly white boy 'fro you could ever see.

I did think so.

With a much bigger bass drum than usual and guitars drowning in echo and reverb, the band launched into their classic rock-influenced music.

A little woozy, a little psychedelic and all sung behind Vile's curtain of beautiful curly hair.

"He's so pretty," the girl next to me pined. "Is it wrong that I'm lusting after his hair?"

I reassured her that it wasn't.

After a while, the band took their places in the shadows and it was just Vile and his acoustic guitar for a few songs, giving the die hard fans some of the quieter songs they craved.

But the band returned and sadly before long the set was winding down.

"We're going to do two more and then everyone needs to leave as quickly as you can, single file. Then they're going to do it all over again," Vile announced.

Some brave souls were even planning to stay for the next show despite the ungodly heat in the room, but I wasn't one of them.

So I filed out and over to Ipanema in my sweaty sundress, my shrug having been soaked when a friend knocked over a glass of water on it during the show, to help a musician friend celebrate his birthday.

"How are you?" the bartender asked and I responded succinctly with "hot."

"Yes, you are!" he said high-fiving me before delivering Wineworks Viognier and Mexican chocolate pie to revive me after the sauna of Strange Matter.

Of course, plenty of others had headed there, too, making for a chance to discuss the show with people I hadn't even realized were at the show.

The birthday boy drank bourbon drinks with pink umbrellas and opened a gift consisting of bourbon, a lawyer's phone number and K-Y Jelly.

As the giver explained, it was all the essentials a musician could need.

I don't know, I think hair is also a plus.

Just look and listen to Kurt Vile and the Violators.

I happily did.

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