Forward, Backward, Same Time: Kurt Vile’s Crystal Ballroom Charm Fest

“Philly’s Constant Hitmaker” is back with “(watch my moves).”

After years of constant touring and finding himself physically and mentally all over the place, Kurt Vile was able to sit down and write his new album, (watch my moves). The tongue-and-cheek-titled record is his ninth release and first on Verve Records.

“My favorite pastime these days is sitting drinking coffee in the morning post-breakfast by the window, reading and listening to Sun Ra, sun shining through the forest trees,” says Vile. “In that moment, it’s all the traveling I’ll ever need. This record encapsulates all that—letting two years roll by and staying in my zone, traveling all the while in my brain, at the piano or in my guitar.”

It was almost hard to imagine that Kurt Vile could write any songs better than classics like “Bassackwards” or “Wakin on a Pretty Day” (both of which made Tuesday’s Crystal Ballroom crowd cheer at first chord). But dagnabbit, the artist who jokingly proclaims that he’s “Philly’s Constant Hitmaker” has done it again—perhaps better than ever before.

Kurt Vile and the Violators charmed the hell out onstage at the Crystal Ballroom as part of his (watch my moves) tour. Whether they were playing the classics or banging out songs from the new album, the crowd could not seem to get enough. Every finger picking moment had folks getting contagiously wild with cheer.

While some bands that play for nearly two hours might have people filing out early, the majority stuck around for the full set. Aside from a few talking douchebags who seemed to be there for the social aspect, the mostly-dude ballroom floor was packed with starstruck faces, mouthing the lyrics with glazed eyes.

For an album written in the stillness of a two-year play-at-home time, (watch my moves) has a lot of songs about motion: “Goin on a Plane Today,” and “Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone),” where he’s “thinkin about flyin.”

Of course there’s “Flyin (Like a Fast Train)” where Vile sings that he’s going so fast that by the time he stops, he just crashes and burns, referencing that ever-so-familiar feeling of nonstop creation, movement and touring.

The songs on (watch my moves) are dreamy folk and psych rock with a chill attitude and a lick of poetry. A front runner for most catchy track is “Like Exploding Stones,” the video of which perfectly captures Vile’s presence—and which delighted Tuesday’s crowd as a killer encore choice.

“I’m always thinking about catchy music, even though it’s fried, or sizzled, out,” Vile says. “It’s my own version of a classic thing—it’s moving forward and backward at the same time.”

Well, hell. He done gone and done it again.