The Soft Pack with Kurt Vile and Purling Hiss
November 1, 2010
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Last weekend, during a conversation with a friend of mine, I asked what I should expect from a Kurt Vile show.
"It's psych rock," she replied. "You know, it sounds like a local band playing the Turf Club on a Saturday night."
[jump] How right she was. Except, in the case of dual openers Purling Hiss and Kurt Vile, there was little melody to be discerned above the droning din that certainly recalled locals like Vampire Hands or Daughters of the Sun. Instead, sadly, were a couple of hours of blase, meandering wankery that left so, so much to be desired.
Openers Purling Hiss specialized in soft, psych-laden doo-wop. The first part of their set seemed a little lackadaisical, but the band finally started to heat up in the later part of their set -- especially during their last song, in which lead singer and guitarist Mike Polizze finally let loose and took a few minutes to solo on his beat-up old guitar, the tremolo arm flopping back and forth as he played.
The crowd swelled to its largest during Kurt Vile and Violators, but the energy in the room remained flat throughout the entire set. Vile coaxed more of a sweeping style of psych rock from his four-piece group, but the repetitive, cooing nature of his melodies only served to further entrance the already low-key audience.
"Soft Pack is up next," Vile announced midway through his set, and the reaction from the mid-sized crowd was complete and total silence.
Once the Violators wrapped up, most of the room went outside to have a smoke, leaving a small scattering of people inside the club. It seemed like headliners the Soft Pack might play to a frighteningly small audience, and even when the band assembled themselves on stage and the smokers returned to the floor the audience seemed depleted.
Regardless, as soon as the Soft Pack launched into their first song a newfound energy flooded the room. The band's drummer remained on his feet the entire show, a visual indication of the group's performative strength, and their poppy melodies and persistant beats immediately livened up the sleepy Monday night show.
The band bridges the gap between garage rock and upbeat indie pop, combining the sustained melodies of old-school punk rockers like the Clash with more modern indie rock riffs, and the result is coolly infectious. After receiving fairly heavy airplay from stations like Radio K, I was surprised that there wasn't a bigger turnout for the group -- their single "Answer to Yourself" seemed almost ubiquitous this summer, and it was a real joy hearing it live in such an intimate setting.
Even with the modest turnout the Soft Pack delivered a blazing set, and afterward lead singer Matt Lamkin insisted that they would be back sooner rather than later -- probably "March or April at the latest." Let's hope more of a crowd turns out next time around, because it seems like the band's punk and garage-influenced songwriting would sit well with a large contingent of Twin Cities show-goers who should have been at tonight's gig.
Personal bias: I really enjoy the combination of psych-influenced garage rock and pop melodies, apparently.
The crowd: Entirely apathetic flannel-clad twenty- and thirty-somethings.
Overheard in the crowd: [crickets]
Reporter's notebook: Finally! A discernible melody! [Written during the opening chords of Soft Pack's first song.]