Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile | photo by Natalie Piserchio for WXPN | nataliepiserchio.com
Watch Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile star in a doc about the Loew’s Jersey Theater
The Loew’s Jersey Theatre is a vintage movie palace that is seeing new life after almost 90 years. It opened in 1929 in Jersey City and, like many theaters of its kind, fell into disrepair in the 70s as moviegoing trended towards the homogeneous corporate multiplex space we know today. Thankfully, the Loew’s has a community around it dedicated to refurbishing it and making it into an arts space for a new century, hosting film screenings, theater and live music — including a stop on Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile‘s Lotta Sea Lice tour.
That concert is the setting for a documentary produced by WeTransfer and released today on YouTube showcasing the gig, yes, but also the people behind the scenes that make the theater work. We meet Paul Citti, a dapper organist who coaxes massive, eerie sounds out of the theater’s pipe organ. (Vile gets a lesson from him after soundcheck, and applauds with a huge smile after hearing some unearthly horror score tones.) We meet Pattie Gordan, president of restoration group Friends of the Loew’s, and promoter Todd Abramson, who’s been bringing indie rock to the Loew’s stage since booking a Bright Eyes show in the early aughts. And we meet Dave Vanderheyden, the venue’s sound engineer who chats with the film crew while soldering an imposing section of an old analog mixing console.
And at the center, of course, is Barnett and Vile. We see them perform four full songs live — “Over Everything” from Lotta Sea Lice, Vile’s “Life Like This” from b’lieve i’m goin down, “Elvis Presley Blues” by Gillian Welch (the first song the duo ever dueted on), and Barnett’s “Avant Gardner” from Sea of Split Peas. They also chat about their experience playing venues of this size, and how intimidating it can be; they chat about the role theater has played in their life (Vile cites Green Day’s American Idiot as his “favorite musical to this day”); and they talk about their friendship, developed over gigs and recording sessions but clearly a natural fit.
Watch Friends of Wonder below.