The hum of a deep, driving bass line reverberated through the walls and down the wide staircase of Pearl Street Night Club as I made my way up to the main stage. By the time I'd arrived, Kurt Vile and the Violators had already taken the stage, and were launching into another song as I tried to make my way past college kids already entranced, and older couples quietly swaying side by side to the beat.
I found an opening in the crowd and stood watching as the band went into full swing behind Kurt Vile on lead guitar; his long brown hair was hanging down over his face, his fingers gliding along the neck, finding each successive note with reflexive ease. The band's technical precision was impressive, but the sound system left something to be desired that night, as Vile's voice was largely lost to distortion early on in the set.
Then, just as one might have started to think things were getting repetitive, Vile took up his acoustic guitar and began playing some of his more somber songs without his backing band. Plucking out a series of rolling progressions, and singing along in a low, melancholic tone, the crowd fell quiet and seemed to be listening with a renewed focus.
Soon the Violators returned to the stage, and a roar went up from the crowd as they watched local music legend J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. walk with his signature nonchalance across the stage and grab his guitar.
Mascis joined in with the band for three or four songs, all culminating in an incredible performance of Freak Train, off of Vile's album Childish Prodigy, which included solos from both Mascis and Vile that won't easily be forgotten. As the set drew to an end, Mascis simply put down his guitar and walked off stage, disappearing into the crowd as if it were only a dream.
And so, with ears ringing and a smile on my face, I made my way down the wide staircase once more, and out into the cold February night.
Image by Ethan Vara via Instagram.