Courtney Barnett Burns Brightly at the Belmont

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Courtney Barnett at the Belmont for FFF Nites; photo by Lukas Truckenbrod

Fun Fun Fun Fest is over and as we wind down our festival season, we couldn’t have wished for a better way to go out. Despite the well-covered/belabored issues with admission on Friday, once you got in, the festival was easily traversed from end to end without having to bob and weave through headbands and glitter paint. Yes, more denim and black jeans than some other festivals, but isn’t it nice to have a little diversity in our whitewashed town? Anyway, we interviewed Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett last week before Fun Fun Fun Fest because we were way psyched to see her sets this year at the festival. She didn’t disappoint when we saw her perform Friday night at the Belmont for the FFF Nites portion of the fest. FFF Nites continues to be a killer time to get out of the festival grounds (read: cheaper beer) and carry on with a weekend full of brilliant jams. The Meat Puppets and Cass McCombs are two artists who played the Nites exclusively, both of which we were able to see Saturday night at the Moody Theater.

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Courtney Barnett at the Belmont for FFF Nites; photo by Lukas Truckenbrod

Following a cosmic set from Tinariwen, the Tuareg desert musicians, Barnett and her band gave us a full hour of driving Neil Young-inspired rock and roll. This was my first time seeing Ms. Barnett and I wasn’t anticipating the heaviness of her band having only listened to her records. With a grungy flannel shirt and black jeans tucked into big black Doc Martens, her messy hair flew in and out of her face as she lunged around the stage with big steps and big hooks. Reliant more on the driving force of five musicians on stage than guitar solos or other fancy tricks, the five piece crossed the divide between radio-friendly rock and roll with aggressive Kraut-rock inspired jams that spiral on into multidimensional territory.

Courtney Barnett at the Belmont for FFF Nites; photo by Madeline Harvey

Courtney Barnett at the Belmont for FFF Nites; photo by Madeline Harvey

Her songs display an intriguing juxtaposition between the music itself and her vocals that are generally delivered very smoothly and gracefully while packing in a ton of lyrics, often super witty and rife with deadpan humor: “I got drunk and fell asleep atop the sheets but luckily I left the heater on/And in my dreams I wrote the best song that I’ve ever written/Can’t remember how it goes.” But then check this out: “The stones became the moss and once all inhibitions lost the hipsters made a mission to the farm/We drove by tractor there, the yellow straw replaced our hair, we laced the dairy river with the cream of sweet vermouth.” How beautifully laid out with a unique rhyme scheme that leaves room for a diverse vocabulary while maintaining a truthfulness that belies the humorous sarcasm. We met up with her backstage at the festival following her Nites performance and her affability was relieving though not surprising. Relaxed and almost aloof, she smiled and entertained our praises. Her talent is obvious and we look forward to seeing her live presence grow.

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