Show Review: Kurt Vile and The Violators with Black Bananas and True Widow at The Fillmore, 5/30/12

by Dakin Hardwick on June 10, 2012

All Photos by Drew Beck

There are so many artists that have been given the role of “New Dylan,” that it’s practically a genre unto itself. Kurt Vile is one of the many who have fallen victim to such a label. He has put out four great solo records, and countless EP’s of great singer/songwriter music, and although there is a bit if a Dylan influence, his sound is much more than that. SpinningPlatters had the pleasure to witness his recent performance at The Fillmore, alongside is fantastic backing band, The Violators.

True Widow helped get everyone’s ear drums warmed up with the single loudest set to ever grace the confines of The Fillmore. Their sound is thick and droney and abrasive. This young band may still be honing their songwriting chops, they  genuinely have their sound perfected. The pure, thunderous boom was a pure joy to listen to, and their 35 minute opening set was a pleasant warm up for the rest of the evening.

Next up was Black Bananas, the latest project from Royal Trux front woman Jennifer Herrerma. Where Royal Trux were a bluesy noise band, Black Bananas added elements of hip hop and dance music to their sound. That over simplifies things a bit. Black Bananas opened their set with a collage of pure industrial noise… Their set up featured a member on 808 and sampler, a keyboardist, and a guitarist, in addition to Herrema’s raspy snarl. Her stage presence is loose and chaotic. She drank nearly an entire bottle of wine while flailing about the stage. Guitarist Brian McKinley proved to be an amazingly eclectic player, moving between 70’s glam rock inspired riffage, to funky, Prince style licks, to pure noise experimentation with missing a beat.

Black Bananas

I am sad that I never got to see Royal Trux, or RTX for that matter. But the danceable chaos that is Black Bananas is a more than reasonable replacement. It amazes me that Herrema, after all of these years, has continued to reinvent herself in many ways. Yes, her stage banter was pretty much all gibberish in grand style of Courtney Love, but that made it all for the better. They even managed to get the weekday folk music crowd dancing something fierce, which is no easy feat.

Kurt Vile and his band came out, rather unassumingly, and began their three guitar attack with a cover of The Feelies’ “For Awhile.” Vile & Co turned the song’s original New Wave dance into a big, fist pumping, triple guitar rock song. Vile’s slightly mumbled, slurred vocal only enhanced these interpretation of the song. It was also a fitting warm up for the next 90 minutes of what would be pure rock bliss.

Vile ran concentrated on tracks of his two most recent solo records, Childish Prodigy and Smoke Ring For My Halo. Although these records are much more muted, folky affairs, he understood what is needed to make a live show great. Songs like “Jesus Fever” and “Heart Attack” turned into blistering rock songs. The crowd response felt more like we were watching an early Springsteen set than any period of Dylan. Fists pumped in the air, people sang along to every word, and there was an over feeling of pure elation and connection. It was so Springsteen-esque that when the band played a spirited rendition of the Boss’s “Downbound Train,” it felt like a classic Vile song instead of a cover.

We did get the occasional acoustic number. We got a stunning rendition of “Hunchback,” where Vile stopped with the muted vocals and gave us some truly clear singing for the first time all night. But, as already predetermined,  this evening was devoted to “rock.” So, we killed through a whole lot more material, with the set coming to a close with a hard rocking, sax driven “Freak Train.” This song is one of those epic live songs in the tradition of “Born To Run” or “Purple Rain”- you just want it to keep going because, well, it just feels so good. The song simply gets everything right, and the perfect way to end a rock show.

Vile is one of those great talents that really needs to be seen live to truly understand. At some point, I am certain that he will bring the Violators to the big rooms, arenas are just a little too hollow without his sound to fill them.


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