Toronto – “It’s a rare honour to be playing with the two gentlemen I’m on on before,” said opener James Vincent McMorrow of his cohorts on the bill. “I don’t know if they know who I am … I don’t care.” The Irish singer was clearly pretty stoked to be there, although he didn’t exactly show it in his body language, standing mostly pretty still during his set other than an occasional buckling of his knees in time to the music. He had a high soulful voice that complimented his sparse, folky songs. His voice was a bit reminiscent of Patrick Watson and maybe Jeff Buckley or Peter Silberman of The Antlers.
I had seen Kurt Vile once before when he opened for Fucked Up on a pretty eclectic bill. Vile referred to that show onstage, recounting the still-classic “Your mom” retort that he gave to a heckler that night. Vile is an impressive player, but gives off such a vibe of being a pretty chilled out guy when performing. At times it seemed like he was almost amused at the concept of performing altogether. He ended his set with what I seem to recall him introducing as “a new song.” As he started into it, I thought, “Wow you can really hear a Springsteen influence on this … it sounds a lot like Downbound Train.” Of course within seconds I realized that it was actually that very same Springsteen song. Whoops.
If Vile’s a laid back performer, he’s positively animated next to J Mascis. However, Mascis’ laconic stage presence did not mean that he did not hold the audience’s rapt attention. Large portions of the crowd listened intently to every note. And Mascis played his fair share of notes. Despite playing solo with an acoustic guitar while seated, he was still rocking pretty hard. “I got a lot of songs, man …” he mused at one point and he played a lot of songs including several from his new album Several Shades of Why, an Edie Brickell cover (apparently Murph used to play that in the van a lot during the early Dinosaur Jr. days) and of course, “Little Fury Things.” He was also joined by Vile and BSS’s Kevin Drew for harmonies on “Not Enough,” which I suppose makes them The Pips to Mascis’ Gladys Knight … but without the matching suits or synchronized dance moves, of course.