Gig Review: Courtney Barnett

Thursday 9th October @ Oxford Art Factory

Our Courtney. How good does it feel to be able to say that? No matter what those ‘Muricans, or the Pom Poms whisper into our ears, with their trivial on-hit wonders, we can stand tall and yell, “Have you checked this shit out? It’ll blow yer fucking socks off!”. After what seems like a lifetime, we have a musician that we can champion, who completely encapsulates all the great and depressing things about living a modern life in Australia.

It was with great happiness that I got to head along to one of Ms. Barnett’s many sold-out shows on her recent national tour. My heart was so swollen with pride, that I couldn’t even squeeze through the doors of the venue. By the time someone applied enough buttery lubricant to my hips and I plopped into the space, Castlemaine native D.D Dumbo had begun his set. I never quite understood how this bloke managed to score himself a record deal with 4AD, one of the most revered indie labels of all time. On record, D.D Dumbo can come off a little slow from the mark, and his swirling songs sometimes just don’t hit any real heights. I mean, the bloke is good, but is he that good?

Quick answer is that old mate is a musical genius. Harking from a place that is well regarded for fuck-knows-what, D.D Dumbo reverses things by creating a sonic bubble around himself, and then drawing in everyone around him into said bubble. What occurs is that you become lost in a sea of peddles and loops, of 12 string-guitars and drum patterns. You can’t help but want to shake your hips to a song like “Tropical Oceans”, a funky jam dressed up as indie excellence. And when you get to witness all the cogs and gears falling into place so correctly, a newfound respect worms its way into the hearts of all in attendance. New track and closer “Brother” was both thankfully not a Matt Corby cover, and one of the most sincerely beautiful and expertly pulled off things I’ve seen in recent memory.

20 minutes after the musical maestro has left the stage, and Courtney Barnett and her band attend the stage, immediately plugging in their guitars and beginning a wailing, rock-centric set. The music was fucking loud, and not in an obtrusive way. It picked you up and cradled you, instantly making you feel welcome and part of Barnett’s peculiarly fantastic mindset. There were solos and noise crunches, each bar being belted out like someone was trying to win a belching contest. Even quieter moments in the set, like the emotion-crushing “Anonymous Club”, which on record is an acoustic, sentimental heart-ripper, had a little spunk and flair on the night.

New songs were debuted and each track took the crowd by storm. Trying out new stuff is always tricky business, but getting to hear what Barnett has in store for her LP made the majority salivate at the mouth like her guitar was an airborne injection of rabies. It seemed strange though, that a lot of Barnett’s infamous semi-awkward and hilarious stage banter was missing for the main duration of the set. Instead, the band and herself swiftly cruised through a packed-out set of her material. Of course, the most recognised was initial set-closer “Avant-Gardener”, which caused a near-stroke in the more ecstatic Barnett fans.

About a minute of footstomping and wild cries for return, and Barnett’s back on stage in solo mode, delivering a new cut entitled “Depresston”, about how depressing it is to go house-hunting in Preston. Although it was the first time the track adorned my ears, hearing the now-legendary combination of Barnett’s lyrics and intimate guitar skills. Although booze has covered up my exact remembrance of the lyrics, I can straight up tell you that you’re going to melt like I did when this song is officially released. Shit, it’ll probably drive up the housing prices in Preston as well. Win-win! And when you follow up a sobering tale like that with two of Barnett’s most dapper and infectious songs “Pickles From The Jar” and “History Eraser”, you’ve got so much of a winning combination going on, it feels like all the world’s lotteries just turned up in your favour.

In all honesty, Courtney Barnett is so perfect because she strikes the perfect balance between two worlds that are extraordinarily apart, a real Hannah Montana. She’s part rock star, with flashing lights, smoke curling all over her stage, and shredding guitar solos. And then, she’s part girl next door, your mate from high school who you could always trust to pull out a whimsical comment. She’s your bong-smoking roommate, and she’s a world-conquering stage master. She can rock a t-shirt and then turn a guitar into her bitch. She perfectly straddles the mainstream and the underground, the Kim Gordon of our generation, the coolest woman to grace the planet. And she’s Aussie. Fuck oath.

 

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