Pickled in a bar with Courtney Barnett

Gig Review: Courtney Barnett
The Corner Hotel
Friday 3rd October 2014

What is it with bands charging exorbitant prices for their live shows these days? I’m the first to admit that witnessing a band play live can bring a new-found love and respect for their musicianship. There are some seminal bands that I have had on my “must see” list for many a year, but if that opportunity happened to arise and the ticket price was $1,000, then chances are you’d find me sipping a Pina Colada on the beach in Fiji and listening to the band’s CD, or kicking back on my couch and watching their Blu-ray disc on my newly purchased surround sound system. Music is meant for the masses, and these bands that think that a $250 starting price for the crappiest tickets in the deepest, darkest echelons of an enormous stadium are just raising revenue for their no-doubt imminent retirement.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have bands out there working damn hard to make a name for themselves- playing for the love of creating great music and building a fan base by slogging it out night after night. Such was the case with the triple billing of Fraser A Gorman, DD Dumbo and Courtney Barnett at Melbourne’s Corner Hotel on a Friday evening last month. Ticket prices were a measly $15 plus booking fee- a price I would have willingly paid to watch either of the support acts on their own, let alone the headline act, who could easily have charged $50 or more per ticket. Graciously, I spent my money savings on several refreshing beverages behind the bar prior to the kickoff and was thus sufficiently prepared to bust out a few impressive Saturday Night Fever poses during the ensuing sets. With four sold out shows at this venue alone, it isn’t hard to see the love that Aussie crowds are feeling for Courtney Barnett right now, and rightfully so.

The venue was already more than half full when Fraser Gorman kicked off proceedings. His laid back blend of Americana country blues and witty inter-song banter kept the audience thoroughly entertained, and left me, for one, keen to hear more from this dude in the future. With luck it won’t be too long before we all do…. he has just signed with indie label Marathon Artists (after being already signed with Courtney Barnett’s own label Milk! Records in Australia) and he has an album due for release in early 2015. (Check him out)

DD Dumbo was the next act on the bill. Like Fraser A Gorman, I had little knowledge of this performer prior to the evening’s gig, and once again, I was blown away, even though his one-of-a-kind sound made him the odd man out in the evening’s lineup. A one-man band, DD Dumbo (aka Oliver Perry)  “constructs” his songs through an impressive layering of musical loops. Simply hearing his music is mesmerizing- a blend of tribal melodies and reverberating lo-fi blues; but to see him create that music in person will give you a new-found respect for this truly unique musical artist. (Check him out)

The crowd was at capacity, much like my bladder (why does that always seem to happen to me just before the main act is due to come on…) and the clock was rapidly approaching pumpkin o’clock when Courtney Barnett finally stepped onto the stage. I’m not sure if it was my brain or my neck that was first to register the fact that these guys (the aptly named Courtney Barnetts)  were rocking-out a lot more than I had anticipated. Featuring Dan Luscombe from The Drones on guitar, Bones Sloane on bass and Dave Mudie on the drums, the band’s backing was tight and unrelenting. I felt like I had been sucked into a musical vortex and spat out into a sweat-soaked grunge bar somewhere back in the mid-90s. And whilst the heavier rock numbers dominated the set, it was the sweet, scaled back mellow tracks such as Anonymous Club that really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I’d heard that Courtney told some good stories in past gigs, but there was little or no banter during the entire set- more a case of short, sweet and somewhat awkward- much like her lyrical content. As for the tunes… all the crowd favourites were in there- Avant Gardener, Lance Jr,  History Eraser, Pickles from the Jar…. The encore concluded with a yet to be released song that the entire audience seemingly knew word for word… except me, that is. I mistakenly thought that Courtney had asked the crowd if anyone was from Frankston in the lead up to the song and for reasons unbeknownst even to myself, I emitted a loud shriek of joy… What she had actually asked was if anyone was from Preston- a suburb that relates to Frankston in the same way that a fitness fanatic relates to a Quarter Pounder with cheese…. In any case, the song was pretty cool, and befittingly entitled Depreston (Defrankston definitely doesn’t have the same ring to it….)

All in all- a great gig. I considered waiting around after the gig so I could get my customary groupie shot (one that my kids, who act like they have just just drunk a shot of straight red cordial every time Pickles From The Jar comes on, would be super excited about), but saw the size of the lineup at the merch stand and started to feel a little downbeat about my long drive back home to Defrankston, so I left before that feeling threatened to destroy the buzz I’d built up over the previous few hours. I’m looking forward to catching Courtney and her band again at next year’s Laneway Festival. (Check her out)

Have you seen Courtney Barnett or any of the support acts play before? What were your thoughts? Leave your comments below!

2 Comments on “Pickled in a bar with Courtney Barnett

  1. Yeah for you! I adore The Courtney Barnett’s, if they ever make it up here to bum fuck nowhere I will move mountains to attend. There is a music festival in Airlie this weekend and tickets are $260 for 3 days or $120 for a day pass with some talented well know acts from the 80’s, its like a time warp, The Eurogliders, Mark Seymour, The Radiators and The Screaming Jets to name a few. So what does that say about the local demographic? We are all a bunch of bogans I guess? I might have paid that much to see Jimi Hendrix but really we aint got no spare coin for Jon English xoxo