Dutchess & the Duke | Kurt Vile | Meg Baird at Josephine
Of all the do it yourself venues I’ve been to, which admittedly isn’t a whole lot, Josephine is easily the one of the best. The room is great, big, but not too big, a high ceiling, a few couches and really close to my house. The only drawback and this is the problem with all DIY venues is that there is no stage. So you either get up front, or be resigned to not actually seeing anything. DIY places being what they are, I wasn’t sure if I was at the right place so I knocked on the door a little before nine and a friendly guy swung it open, informing me that I was at the right place but that the gig was getting a late start because Kurt Vile was taking a nap. So I grabbed a beer over at the Tin Hat to kill some time.
When I got back around 9:30, Meg Baird was just getting started. Baird and Kurt Vile both from Philadelphia are in the midst of a short west coast tour. She sat on a stool to a completely hushed room and barely said a word. Her songs have a folk feel to them, but her voice was strong and reminded me a little of Kate Bush, but that’s just me, everything reminds me of someone or something from the 80’s.
Kurt Vile reminds me of an 80’s band too. It’s no secret that Vile is a fan of Bob Dylan, and his voice kind of has that vibe, but the way he plays guitar with it’s warbly and shimmering effects, he reminds me of Vinny Reilly and the Durutti Column. Live that comparison is really much more evident than it is on record. Vile played an acoustic guitar through a set of effects pedals and was accompanied by another guitar and sometimes saxophone. Kurt Vile who spends his days in The War on Drugs is currently moonlighting with his lo-fi solo gig. Vile solo is not a whole lot different from WOD, except it’s mostly just him. His album from last year, Constant Hitmaker was an unheralded sublime, bedroom psych-pop record. He played a short set last night, but it hit the highlights from that record including Freeway, Breathing Out and Classic Rock in Spring which he played last. His first song required a backing track from a cd which after some technical difficulty that involved getting the cd to actually play, he surmounted. That was the only song that involved any canned beats, after that Vile solicited requests with people happily obliging. Like his record, everything was pretty laid back and lo-fi. The guy is pretty prolific, besides last year’s Constant Hitmaker, he’s just put out a 12 inch ep with his band the Violators on Richie Records called the Hunchback and he’s got another solos record (limited to 500) on the way from Mexican Summer. He’ll also be back in April with his other band The War On Drugs at Jules Maes Saloon down in Georgetown.
mp3: Kurt Vile – Freeway (from Constant Hitmaker, buy it)
mp3: Kurt Vile – My Best Friends (from God Is Saying This To You, pre-order it)
mp3: Kurt Vile & the Violators – The Hunchback (from the Hunchback ep, buy it)
I had seen the Dutchess and the Duke near the end of last year open for the King Kahn BBQ Show at Chop Suey. They were great, but I was too lazy to write about the gig. Last night’s show was something a bit different, because they played without amplification. Most every time a singer or band decide to do something like this they just can’t pull it off because they don’t have the vocal chops to overcome their instruments or the audience talking. That was certainly not the case with Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison who both play guitar and sing. Their singing and harmonies are the real deal,with both of them gifted with voices that just cut through the air. There was no straining to hear their voices, or the between song banter for that matter. The mood was light with Lortz forgetting the best lines to Strangers and blaming it on his gum, which he spit out. Their album clocks in at about 30 minutes and the played nearly all of it as well as the two songs from their Hozac single from last year. If you looked at their history, a folk- harmony-60’s vibe might come as surprise because these two have spent quite a bit of time in a number of Garage and Punk bands including the Fe Fi Fo Fums, Intelligence, and Unnatural Helpers. I guess it just goes to show, that every punk rocker is a hippy underneath (I’ll probably get beat up for saying that). The Dutchess and the Duke have a sound that is easily reminiscent of the 60’s, but it has a punk-modish slant to it, like the Cat Stevens covering the Creation. Easily the best unplugged show I’ve ever seen. Here’s some video I shot for Ship Made of Stone.