Some artists develop a unique and seminal sound that defines them, making their work instantly recognizable. Kurt Vile’s homespun style relies on equal parts familiarity and originality. The musician recently returned to Houston to perform at the usual haunt of White Oak Music Hall to share his endearing strain of slacker rock, complete with backing group the Violators in tow, coasting on the success of the band’s 2018 album Bottle It In.

Joining the Violators were The Sadies, led by brothers Dallas and Travis Good, who took the stage for an opportunity to provide some good-old-fashioned rock’n’roll. The group of raconteurs took on the persona of a garage flower-power act possessed by an unquestionably surfy, country twang, complete with baggy rhinestone-blazers and a standup bass player.

Photo by Trish Badger.

The Stans

The youngest in the audience were pushing their late twenties, and the oldest would definitely be considered as experienced dad rockers, complete with flannel and baseball caps. These silverhairs made up the majority of the attendees. I guess Kurt and the boys appeal to a specific demographic. The hall was crowded and particularly talkative, at times matching the volume of the performers during more subdued moments of the set.

Photo by Trish Badger.

The Stage

The production was minimal, and it seemed the performers didn’t need the thrill of distraction anyway.

Kurt and the Violators were dressed unassumingly, with the frontman resembling a stoner-incarnation of Neil Young, adorned in plaid and denim. The rest of the crew followed suit, with one outlier wearing a pretty flashy red jacket. The band was positioned across the stage, with Kurt in the direct center commanding the bulk of the crowd’s attention during the set.

Photo by Trish Badger.

The Setlist

  • “Jesus Fever”
  • “Bassackwards”
  • “I’m an Outlaw”
  • “Check Baby”
  • “Girl Called Alex”
  • “Cold Was the Wind”
  • “He’s Alright”
  • “Runner Ups”
  • “Yeah Bones”
  • “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
  • “Puppet to the Man”
  • “Skinny Mini”
  • “Wild Imagination”
Photo by Trish Badger.

The Standouts

The Sadies’ last song featured Kurt on vocals and acoustic guitar, and the crowd couldn’t have shown more enthusiasm. The slacker king of folk and twang made the transition between the acts seamless.

Kurt Vile started off the Violators’ set strong with the classic “Jesus Fever” from “Smoke Ring For My Halo,” perfectly capturing the group’s sound and aesthetic. Kurt changed out his guitar between pretty much each and every song, showcasing his collection of stringed instruments, ranging from an Orange Gibson Casino to multiple Jazzmasters, and a banjo. The Violators were true to the classics as well as their newer releases, presenting the depth of the band’s expansive musical catalogue. Personal favorites are the songs where Kurt showcases his finger picking abilities, offering a more refined finish to the often driving and hypnotic nature of the musician’s songwriting.

Photo by Trish Badger.

The Sign-Off

The Sadies were a tough act to follow, but Kurt Vile’s nonchalance is effortless endearing to the mass of loyal fans who packed into the large hall at White Oak Music Hall for the show.

Photo by Trish Badger.

The Score: ♥♥♥♥