At first, the bustling garage-dwelling post-punk of Melbourne’s RVG (that’s Romy Vager Group, for those of you playing at home) seemed an ill fit in contrast with tonight’s headliner – almost at odds, even. The reality is, however, RV are a complement to this bill – and, indeed, any bill lucky enough to have them. They provide everything a great indie-rock band should: Introspective insight, solid foundations to dance or sway upon, propulsive walls of guitar and a series of peaks and valleys that allow one to appreciate their stylistic contrasts that coarse throughout each song. The quartet are still riding high on the momentum of their excellent 2017 debut LP, A Quality of Mercy, and the lion’s share of the record gets a run-through here. Given the album was essentially recorded live upstairs at The Tote, it’s no surprise that the electricity and urgency captured on record translates seamlessly to the live environment. Even those among the early arrivals who have no idea who the band are (read: all but maybe five of them) are quick to pick up what RVG are putting down – which, in itself, says a lot about how convincing a live band they are.
Kurt Vile has been wandering around the great southern land on tour for awhile now, including appearances at the likes of Laneway, Golden Plains and now Bluesfest. Tonight, however, marks Vile’s debut performance in Wollongong – and, to paraphrase Billy Joel, it’s a pretty good crowd for a Tuesday. Taking in the main room of the UniBar, Vile and his trusty backing band saunter on-stage after a few minor tech difficulties delay their arrival. Launching into the lackadaisical street-smarts of “Loading Zones,” which opens last year’s Bottle It In LP, the band are intrinsically locked into the same wavelength.
It makes sense – this iteration of The Violators has been in formation for the better part of a decade now, and with every tour grows a greater sense of familiarity. Multi-instrumentalists Jesse Trbovich and Rob Laakso pillar Vile on either side, each manning a workstation consisting of guitars, basses, keyboards and samplers that are all utilised in a seemingly-endless cycle as Vile moves between each of his musical eras. It’s anchored by Kyle Spence, who hammers home every last groove offered up – be that the chugging head-nodders like “Puppet for the Man” or the hypnotic tape-loop beats of “Bassackwards,” both of which serve as set highlights tonight.
This, of course, leaves Vile himself to draw over each song as he pleases. This ranges from broad strokes and bright chords to the most intricately-detailed guitar solo you could ask for – sometimes within the framework of the same song. It’s a reflection on how versatile and engaging a performer he is, and how open the audience is to go wherever he wishes to take the performance. No-one is hanging out for a hit single – this guy’s never written one, and that’s a compliment. These are albums – and, in turn, songs – that truly speak for themselves. It’s an enriched, captivating performance that’s both qualitative and quantitative. Definitely more than one would bargain for on any other Tuesday night.