Sound on Sound Review: Courtney Barnett

Aussie firecracker avoids ATX cancellation 2.0

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.

Photo by Shelley Hiam

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.

Check out our daily Sound on Sound coverage with previews, reviews, interviews, photos, and more.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett Previews New LP
Courtney Barnett Previews New LP
Mohawk hosts Margaret Atwood-quoting barrage

Rachel Rascoe, May 15, 2018

Courtney Barnett & Molly Burch to Perform at Saengerrunde Hall
Courtney Barnett & Molly Burch
German beer hall hosts Aussie musician

Mark Fagan, Feb. 15, 2018

More by Libby Webster
ACL Live Review: Nilüfer Yanya
Nilüfer Yanya
English singer-guitarist animates acclaimed Miss Universe

Oct. 7, 2019

ACL Live Review: Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish
Superstar teen proves she should’ve been a headliner

Oct. 6, 2019


Courtney Barnett, Sound On Sound 2016, Levitation

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle