Photographs by Sarah Rix.

Roughly 18 months after he last packed the Phoenix in Toronto, Pennsylvania guitar guy Kurt Vile and his Violators returned packing the room again, this time armed with a new album, b’lieve I’m goin’ down.

Late to the Kurt Vile party and largely ignorant to his roots in The War on Drugs, I was so impressed with Vile at that show that I ran mid-set and snapped up whatever albums were available at the merch table.  I took them home after that gig and really loved them up.

So I had high hopes, and seemingly so did the full house, representing most of the age spectrum.  Take the stage just before their scheduled set time but following an almost 40 minute wait, the incessant soundcheck seemed to be for cosmetic purposes as they were mixed awfully for a healthy portion of the evening.

At times the bass and drums overwhelmed everything while a few songs had the exact opposite with the guitar too far up in the mix, notably when Vile broke out the banjo. It would be about half an hour before the sound was sorted, a veritable buzzkill that dampened the blissful chill out vibe of what should be a Vile show.  Given the strength of his new album which I’ve finally listened to since picking up last night, the weight of disappointment was underlined.

Vile remains an awesome watch – his Cousin It hair acting as a curtain to his baby face, the window to his soul that clearly control his very competent hands.  His yelps, while not the extent of his banter, are entertaining.  He had to contend with some amp issues but managed to do that with what you would expect of someone with his laid back vocals.  Highlights included “Wakin On A Pretty Day”, “KV Crimes” and new songs “Dust Bunnies” and “Pretty Pimpin”.  I’m hoping Vile gets better sound treatment when he inevitably returns.

Opening the night was Alabama’s Waxahatchee, a band I never really dived into because it looked like I might have problems pronouncing their name.

Armed with three guitarists (the gateway to my earheart), a made-of-bricks bass player that kept the foundation solid and an array of solid songs, I had no issues repeating their name afterwards.  They didn’t take long to raise the energy in the room.  Throw in a Lucinda Williams cover, swamping down her “I Lost It” track to something sublime.