When Courtney Barnett first barged into the scene back in 2013 with The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, I was floored. I couldn’t get enough. The Modern Lovers-derived, cheeky lyric-infused catchy songs were addictive. Literally. For, like, two years straight I listened to Barnett’s music multiple times a week. It wasn’t healthy. I’d listen to the songs before I’d go to sleep because they were stuck in my head, but the infectious melodies would energize me to the point of not being able to fall asleep. I was not a morning person.
But it was too much. I got burned out. Too much of the same music can do that to you, and if you really overdo it, it will ruin the music for you permanently. This happened to me with Billy Joel. It’s not that Billy Joel writes bad music, it’s just that I heard it too much. Nowadays, whenever the sound of Billy Joel is emitted from the intercom of a CVS I happen to be shopping in, I have to quell my oncoming apoplexy and refocus my attention on which overpriced toothpaste I’ll buy this time.
I started to feel this condition setting in with Courtney Barnett. As a result, I effectively went on a Courtney Barnett hiatus. When she came to Union Transfer last time around, I didn’t even go. I could sense myself getting worn out.
Fast forward to this year’s NonCOMM. Courtney Barnett was on the bill, and I wasn’t even excited about it. I was stoked to see Starcrawler and Jeff Rosenstock, but Courtney Barnett was an afterthought. I went to Barnett’s performance anyway, figuring I had nothing better to do. The energy in her set was palpable. The new songs were still catchy and witty, but a bit more structured that the stuff from the Split Peas era. Instantly, the hiatus had ended. I was re-obsessed and committed myself to seeing her upcoming show at the Fillmore in October.
That concert was last night, and yes, I fulfilled that commitment. The show’s energy level read like a sine wave, starting out low and suspenseful with Tell Me How You Really Feel‘s “Hopefulessness,” increasing further to “City Looks Pretty,” and then kicked it into high gear with “Avant Gardner” during the third song of the set. “Need a Little Time,” came next, bringing the wave back down — but in a hypnotizing and captivating way. No two happy songs were played consecutively the whole night, and no two slow songs were either. The “Elevator Operator”s and the “Charity”s were perfectly weaved throughout the “Depreston”s and the “Lance Jr.”s the entire night — a textbook formula for an A+ concert.
Barnett’s new tunes proved to be popular with the as always age-diverse crowd. Fans were engorged in just as much enthusiasm to hear “Charity” as they were “History Eraser,” proving that Barnett hasn’t lost her songwriting touch. Even Barnett’s material off her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit proved to be much better sounding live than the overproduced ice cream truck versions from the album (that’s my opinion at least).
If there’s one criticism you could draw from the night, it’s that the show seemed a bit rushed. Interaction with the crowd was kept to a minimum, unlike many of the sets I’ve seen Barnett perform in her earlier years. In those years, her synergy with her fans was just as much a part of the show as the music. But we’re not here to split hairs. We’re here to split peas.
Below, check out photos of Barnett’s set, as well as scenes from a solo opening performance by Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield — who also joined Barnett on a cover of Elyse Weinberg’s “Houses.”
Courtney Barnett setlist
City Looks Pretty
Need a Little Time
I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch
Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence
Are You Looking After Yourself?
Walkin’ on Eggshells
Houses (Elyse Weinberg cover) (with Waxahatchee)
Everything Is Free (Gillian Welch cover)
Pedestrian at Best
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