Sudan Archives/Kurt Vile Review
On Saturday, October 15, I went to the Warhol Museum Sound Series block party. The venue was set up on Isabella Street on the North Side, around the corner from the Andy Warhol museum. The stage was set up facing the river and the park. The location wasn’t bad and there were a few places to sit, although it was mostly standing room only. What I liked about the venue was how close you could get to the stage. What I didn’t like was how cramped the space was….because of the park there was only so much room for people to go. The venue overall was nice and I like the idea of an outdoor concert. A big plus was that the night was just right – a nice crisp fall night. Not too hot and not too cold.
Now the artists. Sudan Archives was the second act of the night that I saw, followed by Kurt Vile. The Pitchfork music site just gave Sudan Archives’ new album, Natural Brown Prom Queen a rating of 9.0 and that rating was well deserved. Let me first say that this was the first time that I saw her, and that her stage presence could not have been more of a contrast than Kurt Vile. She is a violin player who mixes hip hop and other elements into her music. She is a natural performer who raced around the stage dancing and offering commentary between songs. Two of her songs were about “titties” and the raw sexuality and social commentary of her songs was powerful to hear….her music is not for the prudish at heart. She sang a lot about sex, the desire to be loved, how black women’s bodies are often comodified, about friendships and escape. Part of me thought that she should have been the headliner and wondered if her sex and color influenced that choice. Nevertheless I would highly recommend seeing her if you get the chance. And buying her music.
The headliner was Kurt Vile who, by contrast, strolled onto stage dressed in jeans and flannel and had a laid back dude vibe. I have at least one of his albums but this was my first time seeing him in concert. His style of singing was your basic rock and roll…not a lot of tricks or flourishes, just plant your feet near the microphone and play blistering rock and roll licks on your electric guitar while singing about your home, your girl, traveling and other ordinary tasks of life. He sings in a half spoken word drawl and his songs meander and sprawl. And his delivery is very, very laid back and chill…no pyrotechnics. HIs newest record is “Watch My Moves” so a lot of the songs he played were from that album with some older songs thrown in and a wonderful cover of a John Prine song. Kurt Vile has been to Pittsburgh at least twice before this show but I wasn’t able to attend any of them. I have his new album on my to purchase list and when he comes to town again, I hope I won’t miss him. As I wrote this review, I reminded myself that I have his album with Courtney Barnett – another favorite artist – called “A Whole Lotta Sea Lice.”
Now, an unfortunate aside. As I left the concert close to 10 PM I heard what sounded like either gunshots or fireworks. I chalked it up to fireworks until I began hearing a lot of sirens. The Warhol is not far away from a Seven-Eleven gas station and Giant Eagle where three people (two of them innocent bystanders) were murdered. It was a sad situation all around and a reminder of how gun violence is closer to us than we think.
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