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Sound Control is your usual back-street venue. Hidden away in the side of Manchester's bumbling social scene-next to the brilliantly named "Thirsty Scholar" pub- it is filled to the brim tonight with the finest folk-heads the musical city has to offer. They're all here for one man. That man is Kurt Vile, a musician that up to five years ago had barely done anything of any public notice whatsoever. Then in a period of three years, Vile has released four full bodies of very different, folk-rock work. His latest, "Smoke Ring For My Halo" was released earlier this year to great critical praise. He seems to have touched many a fellow in his short career, however, as a few of the dates on this latest tour had even sold out and quickly.

First up on this minor folkfest are Brooklyn's own Woods. Formed in 2005, the band play a kind of possessed psychedelic folk, with lead singer Jeremy Earl providing a haunting high-pitched wail over some bizarre time structures. Last time I saw the band they had a tape technician and the set was mostly acoustic on Jeremy's part. However, this time round the band seem to have decided they were playing to a more rock orientated crowd as the band didn't have the tape member present, and instead had a bass player. As usual multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere provided drums on the majority of the tracks, but then took time out to play some lead guitar while the bassist provided percussion. Starting their set with "Suffering Season" all three members of the band seem to be hooked on what they're personally doing to create this strange but loveable atmosphere. They also enlist the help of Kurt Vile's rhythm guitarist for one song and I am also impressed with the turn out for the evening so far, the venue seems to be fairly packed mid-set for Woods. "To Clean" and fan-favourite "Rain On" raise their heads and the band close their set with an almighty jam which shows their true psychedelic roots. By the end of the set, the crowd are hungry for more. They're about to get it.

Kurt Vile comes onstage to tune up his instrumentation and he presents first a twelve string electro-acoustic, then a Fender Jaguar and finally a standard six-string. His drummer looks how you'd imagine his father to- the trademark long, dark hair and similar demeanour. The rest of his band are made up of two more guitarists, which begs the question; where is the bass going to come from? Kurt had that slyly covered but first of all he approaches the stage alone and performs "Blackberry Song" from his second album "Childish Prodigy". "Man i like your styyyyyyyyyyyle, make it last a little whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile" drawls Vile with his eyes fixed straight at the central point in the crowd, nearly unblinkingly. Each and every member of the crowd must feel as if they're being sung to individually as Kurt casts a gaze across his audience tonight. The band then joins him onstage and they launch into the main set. It is quickly realised that the lack of bass is covered by the second guitarist, who uses the top two strings of his instrument as bass strings, by means of effects. The drummer also uses bizarre techniques such as drumming with just his hands and a pair of maracas. "Hello Manchestooor" Kurt tries his hand at the famous Manchester dialect to fairly impressive results for such a home-rooted soul. Kurt then introduces various members of his band before launching into an all-electric version of "Jesus Fever" from his latest record. Giving the song a more dynamic edge was a good move, as it was easily a favourite on the album but now this unique sounding performance makes the whole show. Three Fender Jaguars grinding away at the chords provide an almost grunge sludgey effect, which provides Vile with his biggest applause yet. "You're a sweet crowd" he says smiling beneath his Grudge-like mop. There's a certain glisten in his eye which shows an air of cheekiness and also humanity.

This man, he's just a normal guy, out to make music. He doesn't seem to think much of anything except what he wants to sing and write about. He turns up to a gig with three guitars, all designed for different purposes. Yes, he has to tune up in between almost every song and maybe even quickly switch guitars but that's all the magic of being an underground artist and one that is coming into his own more and more with every release.

Review by Callum Barnes

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