Nobody knows what Kurt Vile looks like

By Sarah Robertson

(Sarah Robertson/Daily Collegian)
(Sarah Robertson/Daily Collegian)

Kurt Vile and his band, The Violators, played at the Pearl Street Ballroom in Northampton Thursday night. Despite a full house, few people in attendance could explain what Vile looks like behind his curtain of frizzy, brown hair. If it wasn’t for the knobby nose parting his hair straight down the middle, Kurt Vile would be a faceless head of curls.

The self-taught musician shared new songs from his latest album “b’lieve me im goin down,” as well as his other popular tracks. As he performed “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” Vile’s recent country music musings broke through in a slightly twangier version of the song, but his band didn’t seem to notice or care. They are probably used to it. He played “Freak Train” with more aching vocals than can be captured digitally. It is clear in the way Vile loses himself in his music that he plays for himself, we are just lucky to have him share it with us.

Vile loses nothing between the studio and the stage. He delivers songs with the same raw emotion and thoughtful finger plucking apparent in all of his work. He switched guitars between nearly every song, even playing the banjo for several songs, including “I’m An Outlaw.”

His shyness is tangible; one could count how many times he looked up from his fingers to peek past the curtain of hair. It may be Vile’s reclusiveness that makes him so intriguing, or maybe that’s his greatest vice. An intensely private person, Vile’s stage presence is reluctant but confident. He was quick to leave the stage and returned for an encore only after a persistent crowd refused to leave without getting their money’s worth of entertainment.

But even they can’t recall what Kurt Vile looks like. He probably prefers it that way.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at [email protected]