Last night Kurt Vile rolled into San Francisco to kick off a two-night run at the legendary Fillmore venue right in the heart of the city. And I excitedly strolled into the venue for the first time in many years ready to feel the magic of this shared space once again, always a nostalgic visit for me. The Fillmore was the first venue I ever caught a show at in San Francisco, and ever since I’ve always had a particularly strong connection to it. So the first visit in a post-pandemic live music world certainly delivered an emotional punch for me.
I arrived just in time to honor the Jerry Garcia photos, grab a drink and settle into my spot before the house lights went down to cue Kurt Vile and his band of Violators, a rag-tag bunch of musicians that straight-up look the part, to the stage. And throughout the evening, Vile and his band painted a fairly mellow canvas for us that just really shows everything he wants you to know about him in a few strokes: the ridiculously long and wavy hair, the guitar tech switching guitars after every tune, the heads-down focus when he’s playing, the eyes-up modest surprise when he finishes a song and gets an applause, the lack of hubris by everyone on stage, etc. It’s a vibe that he’s shared with us from the start, specifically since he made his mark with Smoke Ring For My Halo.
And last night’s show was a proper Kurt Vile canvas, a full Philadelphia indie rocker vibe from front to back.
The show opened up with “Palace of OKV in Reverse” before dropping back into one of my faves from his previous efforts, “Loading Zones.” I wasn’t aware of the origin of the next tune, “Punks in the Beerlight,” but I guess I’m just not versed in the Silver Jews catalog enough to recognize that one outright, not to mention the flares and style that KV attaches to it. “Bassackwards” came next and got people swaying, and two new tracks, “Hey Like a Child” and “Jesus on a Wire,” followed.
The band brought out “Check Baby” next off Bottle It In before taking a little break and strolling offstage to leave Vile on his own for “Peeping Tomboy,” one of his well-known classics at this point. Between then and the climax of the show, we also got a sprawling version of “Waking on a Pretty Daze” before getting everyone swaying a bit harder with “Pretty Pimpin.”
It was nice to see the show close with a road-weary Vile announcing in a relieved way that he’ll be back at the same venue tomorrow and gets to stick around for a few days. My money’s on him browsing the aisles at Amoeba today while he’s relaxing and taking in the SF sights.
Here’s the setlist from the show courtesy of setlist.fm:
Catch Kurt Vile & the Violators on the road now and back at the Fillmore tonight, May 14, 2022. Head here to grab tickets to his latest shows.