The Rosemount let loose as Kurt Vile descended on Perth Sunday night backed by some serious local talent and a powerhouse performance from RVG.
The surge in interest for the event saw it moved outside to the Rosemount car park. The setup, with the stage, positioned at the back and a bar through the middle created a great atmosphere, arguably better than had the event stayed indoors as initially planned.
Punters certainly got their money’s worth in a night that featured four acts stretching across five hours. Opening proceedings before darkness fell was local favourite Carla Geneve.
Spacey Jane was up next and they injected some good-time vibes into proceedings with their sunkissed brand of indie guitar pop.
As evening fell and punters started crowding in, RVG kicked things up a gear. Frontwoman Romy Vager has an inimitable stage presence. She commanded the stage, and her vocals were everything at once – powerful, searing, cynical, and emotional. Anyone who likes their indie rock dark and poetic should take note – these songs immediately burrowed themselves into my brain and had me YouTubing like a madman once I got home. With lyrics about Christian Neurosurgeons, Vincent Van Gogh and falling in love with international business machines, this is a go-to band if you like your glass half full and your humour charred black.
The band only has the one album under their belt but the quality of tunes meant they already had a rich back catalogue to draw upon. The aforementioned Vincent Van Gogh was equal turns powerful and sad (“You say you’re hard done by / You say you’re a wreck / But the damage you do is worse than the damage you get”). IBM was post-punk absurdism at its finest, Romy injecting Eastern guitar motifs throughout with her unique finger-splaying guitar style. The droning The Eggshell World was a soul-crushing slice of Joy Division-esque grandeur, and A Quality of Mercy was downright cathartic. Call me a convert – RVG’s songs are cynicism embodied in a heavenly rocking package.
As apropos, Kurt Vile made a characteristically nonchalant entrance, all glorious hair and flannel. He made a few wisecracks later in the night about how Aussies end everything on a ‘y’ sound. This may not speak for all of us, but it would certainly speak for Kurt himself was he from this side of the pond. With his wry grin and unmistakable drawl, the guy is looseness incarnate and he carries it with undeniable charisma. His set, likewise, had a loose, homespun feel. Underlying it though were the amazing acoustic chops that we’ve come to expect from one of the finest guitar pickers in the game.
The set was heavy with material from last year’s Bottle It In and we’re not complaining – the record was a rollicking set of tunes showcasing vintage Vile. He opened with Loading Zones, amplified against waves of cascading chords. Jangling heaven continued onto Jesus Fever before the electric guitar was given a break for a beautiful rendition of Bassackwards. This was a beautiful rendition of what is a blissed-out ode to just chilling in and spacing out. Vile certainly wasn’t spacing out though – his guitar was crystalline and crystal-clear. His picking always manages to sound tossed-off and ragged but he never skips a note, sounding even clearer here than the record. I’m An Outlaw came next and so did another instrument change, acoustic swapping for banjo as Vile ground out a riff like only he can. The backing band was tight as, providing the perfect wall of reverb-heavy, vibrato-led sound over which Vile delivered his instantly recognisable, looping riffs.
Vile’s songs all tend to hit the mark and his track selection was impeccable, so other highlights were plentiful. Check Baby stretched its guitar chords out like waves rolling into the ocean, with backing keys used to soaring effect. The guitars unexpectedly kicked in for what was the most rocking moment in the set. That is, second to Kurt’s epic wall-of-sound wah-wah drenched solo for an amazing rendition of Wakin On a Pretty Day, and done on an electrified acoustic guitar no less. Vile summed up his blissful reverb-drenched sound best when he came back for an encore – “There’s a lot of ghosts in the machines”.
And the final salvo definitely delivered. Mutinies is a ruminative classic from the latest record and it got a delicious live treatment. A relatively straight but perfect rendition of his biggest hit Pretty Pimpin’ followed before the set wound down with Baby’s Arms. It was an appropriate end, leaving Vile with just his acoustic, in his element and at his most raw and singular.
The entire set was a blast – two great local acts, a startling discovery in RVG, and Vile delivering the unfiltered goods. A day out to remember.
Photos by Alfred Gorman