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Kurt Vile | Photo by John Vettese

“Thanks for coming to our rehearsal, everybody,” Kurt Vile told a packed house at Johnny Brenda’s last night. “Our rehearsal that you had to pay to get into.”

Philly’s constant hitmaker is about to head out on a huge fall tour in support of his new record b’lieve i’m goin down… and, like his friends The War on Drugs before him, he decided to test the waters with a warm-up show at the small Fishtown club that sold out in a heartbeat.

There was some self-depricating-ness about it; Kurt admitted that “we haven’t been out on the road for a while” and apologized for bumpiness. On the harsher side of things, he sent “Pretty Pimpin'” to “my sound man Tom” – as a moment of piercing microphone feedback ran through the PA – “for making us sound so good up here.”

Thing is, though, they did sound good. “Dust Bunnies” was a strong, jagged rock n’ roll opener; “Pimpin'”, one of the best jams of the year, packed as much of a punch onstage as it does on record. The latest configuration of the Violators really locked in on “That’s Life, Tho (almost hate to say)” – a meditative, atmospheric fingerpicker on the album worked into a full-band live arrangement that comes alive with swelling drums and vibey Farfisa.

The revisits of Vile’s back-catalog were tremendous: “Goldtone” from 2013’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze exploded off the stage in serpentine guitar leads, and a stripped-down dust-off of “He’s Alright” from 2009’s Childish Prodigy was wonderful with a hint of spacey guitar in the background.

Best of all was the “amongts friends,” familial vibe of the room. “Who’s from Philly?” Kurt tongue-in-cheekily asked to a round of applause. “Cool. Who’s from Fishtown?” More applause. “Cool.” And when he announced “Last chance to dance” ahead of the driving fan favorite “Freak Train,” Vile didn’t have to ask twice.

Check out a gallery of photos from the gig, read the setlist, watch fan videos and listen to audio of “Freak Train” via PhilaTaper, all below. Kurt and the Violators return to Philly on October 9th to headline a sold-out show at Union Transfer.

Setlist
Dust Bunnies
Pretty Pimpin’
Life Like This
Jesus Fever
Wheelhouse
That’s Life, Tho (Almost Hate To Say)
Goldtone
He’s Allright
Song for John in D
Wakin on A Pretty Day

Encore:
Wild Imagination

Encore 2:
KV Crimes
Freak Train

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