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Review: Kurt Vile makes his Spokane debut in downtempo, chill fashion at Knitting Factory

By Taylor D. Waring

For The Spokesman-Review

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

Chastity Belt, originally formed in Walla Walla while its members attended Whitman College, opened the evening with their brand of dreamy indie rock. With a cooler-than-you, Portland hipster aesthetic, 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. A Philadelphia artist, Vile got his start in the early aughts experimenting with lo-fi home recordings before joining the War on Drugs as a guitar player.

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.

Early in his set, Vile covered “Punks in the Beerlight” by Silver Jews, a highly influential early indie rock band helmed by David Berman. Berman, a brilliant and multifaceted musician, illustrator and poet, died in August 2019.

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

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

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

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

It’s as if Vile’s fans are watching him in his practice space or at home, gently bopping along to each song, which creates a freeing, low-stress atmosphere that is a sort of rarity at Knitting Factory.

Both bands seemed to show a genuine affinity for each other. Prior to his set, Vile was unassumingly watching Chastity Belt perform side stage and donned their heavy-metal, woodcut-print-looking shirt that says “Cool Slut” (one of the band’s songs) across the top. During Vile’s set, three Chastity Belt members were dancing to Vile’s music in the sound pit.

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

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

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