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Kurt Vile’s set is scheduled to go on at 9:25 PM. You’d never know, since he’d been mingling through the crowd since forty-five minutes beforehand. He also jumped on stage twenty minutes before the set set for sound check, and remained there until he began playing. It’s a little flustering when the host introduces him to the stage, as if we hadn’t been anxiously watching him fiddle with his guitar in the same spot for the past twenty minutes. Vile shifts in his skin tight jeans and drops his long mop of hair in front of his face as he starts playing his first song, “Hunchback,” which comes from his 2009 album Childish Prodigy.
It’s just him alone with his guitar in front of less than 200 people upstairs in the building of Philadelphia’s WXPN. Vile keeps his face hidden through most of the set as he sings to the crowd from a short distance away. Between songs he’s short-worded, even utilizing one word sentences. After finishing “Hunchback” he takes a second to mumble, “Hey. Thanks. Beautiful,” before rolling into “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” the almost title track of his recently released album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze. In the song, Vile sings “You can say I been most all around/ But honey I ain’t goin’ nowhere,” a sentiment that relates nicely to his song “Peeping Tom,” which he plays later in the show. Such as the lyrics from “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” Vile sings about indecision and uncertainty in “Peeping Tom;” “I don’t want to change/ But I don’t want to stay the same.”
Vile’s wedding band shines brilliantly on his left ring finger as his hand slides up and down the neck of the guitar. After finishing a song he softly asks the small crowd for any requests. A few strong voices shout back, “Baby’s Arms.” Vile complies and performs the song. It’s obvious why he wears that ring so proudly as he croons, “I get sick of just about everyone/ And I hide in my baby’s arms/ Cause except for her as I’ve implied/ I will never be alone/ Cause it’s all in my baby’s hands.”
Before his last song, Vile jokes with the eager crowd while saying, “Yeah you guys can talk. It’s fine. I don’t care.” The crowd laughs as he starts into an abridged version of “Goldtone,” the final ten minute-long track off of Wakin on a Pretty Daze. He finishes his set with a consistently small amount of words as he thanks the crowd. He packs up his gear and walks off the stage, but not before his baby face is revealed as his dark curly hair parts down the middle while he says good night.