Sunday, November 28, 2010

Feature :: Pitifully Short-range Teleportation :: Purling Hiss/Kurt Vile and the Violators

Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW, Washington DC
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I've been talking this show up for months now: two Philly bands coming from opposite ends of the rock spectrum  playing together in DC at one of my favorite venues.  Purling Hiss has a  more in common with the MC5, while Vile's songwriting is plainly tied to the early Greenwich folk-poet scene, but they both collide in screeching walls of psychedelic fuzz.  Let me just say that I walked into this one more sober than I wanted to be.

Purling Hiss :: Passenger Queen

Purling Hiss doesn't fuck around.  They play the kind of loud rock that makes me jerk my fist around and slur righteously about the divine kingdom.  I use the word "loud" the way fans of Blank Dogs or Best Coast use "lo-fi." I think of it as a near-complete aesthetic decision, only one that's way more likely to boot the motherfucking gods from their mountaintops.

Mike Pollize's guitar screamed into high gear from the first moment of the set and didn't settle back to earth for another 40 some-odd minutes (who the fuck knows how long? I'd curled into a fetal position in front of the stage amps way too early on to tell, compliantly taking pulls from my thumb). The thick bass lines powered through Pollize's enumerable micro-solos, giving his madcap guitar jams the bedrock they deserved. He put enough whammy bar on the deeper, less perceptible riff to put a big grin on your face, and finally he finished the set on his knees picking down low in the dirtier regions of his fretboard, locating frequencies that were first unearthed by the Japanese psychedelic experimentalist of the sixties, 50s-rocker turned communist death cults like Les Rallize Denudes.

Kurt Vile :: Hunchback

For anyone who sat through the entirety of Purling Hiss, Kurt Vile probably seemed like a banjo-picking hayseed. Ah, that's not really fair, but the distinction in noise quality was there. Vile pulled through with a solid set of the songs you're more likely to aurally comprehend from his albums. I find his recorded work thick at times and sonically hard to parse. To my mind, his trademark is his voice and singing rhythm. His lyrics actually express complete thoughts, which may possibly be what contributes most to his popularity (as an English major, I hafta admit it gets me, too).  The sentiment of his lyrics latches pretty firmly to the contemporary 20-something Weltanschauung, post-Warhol, post-atomic bomb, post-people who gave a shit about either of those things. To give you an example, here's a short line from his song "Freak Train" out on his Childish Prodigy LP:

Fabrication is my best friend, but I ain't never been so insulted in my whole life.

Vile's choice for starting out his set was a 12-string, which lent a tranquil, easy-going quality to his skilled guitar work. He moved between a few other guitars during the set as he transitioned between louder, more distorted songs, and finally back to a beautiful closer, playing solo acoustic. If you can say anything about the man, versatility is one of his talents.

The best surprise for me was that Pollize continued on from his set to play backing guitar with the Violators. I wouldn't have guessed it was possible for him to sit comfortably in the background, but Pollize was probably treating it like a cool-down.  And, shit, I'll say it, Vile is an amazing guitarist, too, and an attention-commanding frontman. You always get the sense that what he's saying (especially when you can't understand it) is absolutely true.

Overall, fantastic fucking show, reaffirming the fundamentals. I moved from bar to bar to couch afterwards, spit dripping from my lips from the strain of expressing my wonderment through what was left of my rock and roll lobotomy-cinched mind. Everyone I encountered got overtipped. And I do believe my light-bearing preachifying deserved some reciprocity.

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