Kurt Vile Brings Out J Mascis at Pearl Street in Northampton

Photo by Marina Chavez.

Photo by Marina Chavez.

When he was first coming up as a solo act, Kurt Vile seemed like the musical embodiment of Gertrude Stein’s famous epigram about visiting her hometown, Oakland, Calif., years after having moved away: there is no there there. Sure, Vile had chops as a guitarist, but his songs meandered and his live shows often verged on dull. Times have changed.

The Philadelphia indie-rocker was much more engaging Thursday night at Pearl Street in Northampton. Not so much in a personal sense — he’s not one for stage patter or between-songs banter — but Vile and his band, the Violators, powered forcefully through a 90-minute set of songs that ranged from full-band workouts to solo-acoustic numbers, and even a guest appearance on two songs by J Mascis.

The two have toured together, and Vile played on the Dinosaur Jr. frontman’s 2011 solo album “Several Shades of Why.” On Thursday, Mascis peeled off (relatively) restrained blues licks over a slammy beat on “Hunchback” and added to the thunderous, propulsive drive of “Freak Train,” both from Vile’s 2009 album “Childish Prodigy.”

Elsewhere, Vile led his band through his most recent single, “Pretty Pimpin,” singing in that flat, unplaceable drawl over accompaniment that was denser than the version on his new album, “b’lieve i’m going down.” Vile switched to banjo for “I’m an Outlaw,” dialed in a big, meaty guitar sound on “KV Crimes” and took a solo turn on acoustic guitar for “Stand Inside.” After Mascis’ guest spot toward the end of the main set, Vile and Co. finished with “Wild Imagination,” and returned for a two-song encore that included the somber “Baby’s Arms.”

After the show, someone on Twitter opined that Kurt Vile is one of the best things happening in music right now. That may be overstating the case, but Vile is only getting better.

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