Courtney Barnett live in Sydney
Melbourne-based musician Courtney Barnett just played three sold-out nights at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory. We sent reviewer Melissa Barrass and photographer Adam Davis-Powell along to check her out:
Over the past few years I have managed to shake off that fear of flying solo when it comes to Sydney’s constant influx of top-shelf music. So when I saw that Courtney Barnett was soon to sell-out her third and final Sydney gig on her 2014 Australian tour, there was little chance I would let this moment skip by. Her 2013 double EP ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’ has only been on a constant repeat over the last two months, so it was a perfect timing to finally see her live on the eve of my 24th birthday.
After losing my Churr Burger virginity with my friend, we walked off the guilt to Oxford Art Factory where we were early enough to see a full support set from Sydney’s Caitlin Park. Alongside a fresh band, the humble Park began with the sweet and melodically layered ‘Lemonade’. Just when my friend and I communally shared the thought of why-have-we-not-heard-of-her-before, ‘Hold your Gaze’ was played and then we watched each other’s faces light up and exchange an “oh I know this song” sort of relief.
Not long after Caitlin, we found ourselves debating whether that tall, goofy looking guy on the stage was the sound tech dude, or DD Dumbo himself. We both decided on “sound tech dude”, until he decided to stay on stage and make beautiful sounds that upon perfect timing, looped and creatively formed a one-man band. Just when we also thought DD Dumbo was a fresh sound to our ears, ‘Tropical Oceans’ played to a very chilled and pleasant crowd. Behind the odd stage-name is Oliver Hugh Perry, who said some pretty typically humorous Melbourne (yet welcome) things about Sydneysiders being generally physically modified and larger than his counterparts back in Melbourne. Even musicians are noticing this body-building obsession in Sydney, oh dear. Anyway, as the curtains closed to set up miss Barnett, DD Dumbo certainly gained a serious new fan on the night of a blood red moon.
I stayed admittedly up the front for all three acts, because being as close to Courtney Barnett (pictured. above) as possible, is as close as I will ever get to the Juno movie embodied in a perfect Melbournian scallywag rocker. Thanks to the compliments from some fashionistas in the crowd, Courtney Barnett enlightened us all with a FASHUN secret. If you missed out on this rare opportunity, you are going to hear it first here folks – the average Kmart stripey tee does wonders for the effortless chic look. Or bluesy shoegaze slacker rocker, whatever tickles your fancy.
However, Caitlin Park doesn’t call her “Courtney Babenett” for her chic style, Barnett is indeed a babe, mainly because she is playing some of the most engaging and quirky music to ever come out of Australia. A simple girl with simple words, placed with wild rock riffs that shared plenty of opportunities to twist dance like no-one is watching. Her set was engaging and her band is fantastic. Courtney’s lead guitarist on the Jazz Fender, tore through the crowd, and was almost as much of a highlight as Courtney herself.
Courtney started the set with ‘David’, followed by ‘Lance Jnr’, which was the song that introduced me to her music thanks to triple j. I mean, what sort of song that opens with the lyrics of “I masturbated to the songs you wrote” skips passed an unsuspecting listener? IT DOESN’T OKAY? IT JUST DOES NOT.
Midway through the set, Courtney played my latest obsession ‘Anonymous Club’, a sweet, melancholy wonder that gives me all the feels from experiences I have never actually had. ‘Anonymous Club’ shows a different side to Barnett’s usual deadpan approach, has plenty of heart and her voice is just beautiful.
After coming back on stage encore-style, people demanded ‘Pickles’, and Courtney fulfilled the wishes of her East-Coast minions and played a new song (didn’t quite catch it), ‘Pickles From the Jar’, and ‘Avant Gardener’. That is when eye-roll tragedy started. Oh Sydney, you just don’t know how to behave at intimate gigs do you? There we all were, having a gay old time, when two guys from side-of-stage began rocking out on stage peacefully and welcomed by the band. However, that somehow gave some of the patrons the idea that they too could go up on stage. So there I was front row, Courtney is surrounded by 10 randoms, trying to play her heavenly tunes whilst an idiot squishes his unwelcome side-of-face against hers for a selfie. Security began to calmly usher the crowd off, and managed to wrestle with one fool who refused to leave the stage, who before being pushed off to a beautifully parting crowd, almost knocked Courtney off stage midway through playing.
Welcome to scallywag Sydney, Babenett, you gon’ fit right on in.