Sound on Sound Review: Courtney Barnett
Aussie firecracker avoids ATX cancellation 2.0
By Libby Webster,
1:00PM, Mon. Nov. 7, 2016
Minutes past her 9:15pm start time, Courtney Barnett meandered onto the main stage and launched “History Eraser,” a collective relief rolling across the big, damp audience. Storm rains plaguing the fairground all afternoon, there had been a palpable fear of the Aussie singer’s set becoming Levitation 2.0, where she was rained out earlier this year.
As winsome as some of her recorded material can be, live the 28-year-old singer-songwriter-shredder has grown into a commanding performer. Exultant, swaggering, she rocks a shaggy mane and black T-shirts like Malcolm Young. The neatness of her studio work on 2014’s The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas and and 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit unraveled at Sound on Sound Sunday in brash, fast, loose garage-grunge.
On the chugging, seven-minute “Small Poppies,” Barnett’s off-hand delivery on the recording crumbled into a brutal howl live (“I used to hate myself but now I think I’m alright”). Other cuts, “Elevator Operator” and too-clever “Avant Gardner,” went from droning droll to bursting with guitar solos. Following a sweet, quiet “Depreston,” the trio’s bandleader waxed political, dedicating the chorus of “Pedestrian at Best” to Donald Trump.
“I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very funny,” the audience gleefully screamed along.
As the brooding, pessimistic, slow burn of “Kim’s Caravan” hit crescendo, a dizzying collision of distortion and reverb, Barnett sprawled onstage, hair everywhere, still playing. Then, just like that, she picked herself up and cheerfully kicked into buoyant closer “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” nonchalant and unfazed by her hourlong destruction of the Dragon’s Lair.