Alabama Shakes, Kurt Vile
August 13, 2016
The Greek Theatre
Berkeley, CA


Alabama Takes the Shake

by Sean Sanford

Candice and I are Unamazing Racers. Typically, whenever we set out to do something, we end up somehow falling into the most time-consuming and weird circumstances. We slid right into slow motion on Saturday as we looked for (and eventually found) the Greek Theatre, but from there on out we would be streaking, not of the nude, but of the win.

Candice got us tickets to see Kurt Vile because she saw him years ago; her mind was upended by his heartbreaking voice and lyrics that create a balance between living uplifted and downtrodden. She wanted to take me to see him and it was a bonus that he was opening for Alabama Shakes, the band that houses one of the most incredible voices in today’s world of music, Brittany Howard. Victory!

After following our blind noses to amazing and free parking, then grabbing dinner we walked through UC Berkeley to the Greek Theatre. This venue is in my opinion one of the most breathtaking in the Bay Area. It’s modeled after the theater of Epidaurus of ancient Greece and you feel like you’ll bump into Socrates at the merch table (also, it’s Berkeley so it wouldn’t be unheard of to run into someone who at least takes fashion tips from said era). We noted the contrast in overall demeanor here compared to the metal and punk rock shows we oft enjoy. Suffice it to say we found it relaxing.

Kurt Vile began and, as he was the opening act, he wasn’t given the attention I felt he deserved at first. But as his set progressed, you could note that people were starting to shut their yaps and (figuratively) open their ears. Candice was transfixed. I loved seeing her, eyes closed as she swayed to the music, so moved. There’s just nothing like seeing a band or performer that you truly adore.


There was a brief tremor when she had to tell the women next to us to please keep their voices down. Candice explained to them between songs that, although he was the opener, seeing Kurt Vile was something she’d been anticipating for a long time. The women graciously obliged. Later, one of them asked me who the singer was, as she had learned via my wife that sometimes you can discover wonderful shit when you open your ears (…figuratively).


After Kurt Vile had played his (too) short (for us) set, Alabama Shakes stepped up. I’ve seen a grip of concerts in my day and I feel that this one will stand out as one of the best ever. You know when you see a band or a singer and it feels like a religious experience? When you’re chest floats up to your ears before vibrating through your scalp and into the night? Your eyes growing varying degrees of mist during every song? That’s how Alabama Shakes was to me, Candice, and from the looks of it everyone else in the whole theatre.

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We shared looks of flabbergast (is that a word?) with strangers and everyone was visually elevated. Especially the husbands of the women-talkers next to us: one of them was pretty much spooning us until Candice yelled at him to step off. He went into a huddle with his other three friends before they lowered him to the cement step. I think having Candice yell at him affected him the same way it does me: total emotional paralysis. Well, an usher was called over and they lead the man away in his drunken abandon. I felt bad for the women cause they had obviously felt about Alabama Shakes the way Candice felt for Kurt Vile, and they had to leave when she was about halfway through her third song. Sometimes bringing your husband or wife to a concert is like taking a pigeon to a rodeo; you love the experience, but they’re a pigeon for fucks sake. Sometimes you gotta just let them fly.


Anyway, Alabama Shakes brought down the walls with their set and I don’t think anyone there will ever forget that show. I know for me, seeing them paired with Kurt Vile will stand in a bracket of its own. So we slid off to our secret parking spot and made way back to The City, getting lost a few times, and verifying our crown of Unamazing Racers.


The End


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