Live Review: Courtney Barnett @ Kentish Town Forum

  • Words: Woody Anderson

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Courtney Barnett is one of the best lyricists of the last few years and is reminiscent of a young Patti Smith. Barnet’s poetic ramblings of everyday mundane events have gained her a loyal following and critical acclaim, and she lead the pack at this year’s ARIA awards with eight nominations of which see took home four, including Best Break Through Act and Best Female.

The three-piece named CB3 were made up of Andrew ‘Bones’ Sloane on bass and Dave Mudie on drums, with Courtney on vocals and lead guitar. The band formed a nice triangle formation on the stage in front of some impressive visuals that included animated penguins, boobies, ice creams, a forest, a caravan, the Loch Ness monster, as well an array of psychedelic patterns. Media interest was high as I counted no less than 14 professional photographers happily snapping away down front.

Kicking off with Avant Gardener, the track then melted into Dead Fox and made for a great start, but I was surprised the crowd appeared rather static. On further inspection it became clear the attendees were older than I would have expected, generally in their late 30s and early 40s – there were even quite a few suits in the audience. Although indicative of the age of the crowd was the distinct absence of phones held in the air recording every second, which made for a refreshing change. This audience was absorbed in the performance, almost frozen to the spot as they concentrated on the lyrics and music.

It wasn’t until the 9th track, Elevator Operator that the crowd started to warm up and a noticeable movement started, with the younger attendees making a beeline for the front to get involved in the gradually growing pit of mosh. Debbie Downer further fuelled the crowd’s excitement and helped them find their groove as the band rocked out, creating a big sound and enjoying the feedback from the speak stacks and the audience’s appreciation.

A member of the crowd was heckling for them to play Cannonball by the Breeders, a song they’d covered previously, but Barnett’s reaction was simply… “no”. Kim’s Caravan was a low-slung bass driven atmospheric poetry reading; with low lighting and moody visuals alongside fake smoke, the track worked really well in such a big space and highlighted Barnett’s witty lyrical prowess.

Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party got the audience moving once again with pockets of the crowd deep in a melodic groove. The band finished their performance to generous applause and left the stage to a scene from the blitz, with search lights illuminating the Art Deco venue. The band then returned, bringing their support act The Big Scary with them to perform The Saints’ Know Your Product. Closing the show they dropped into Pedestrian at Best with strobe lighting and heavy guitar riffs played by Barnett  lying on her back rocking out Jimi Hendrix style and singing my favourite lyrics “Give me all your money, and I’ll make some origami, honey, I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very funny”. The encore finished with guitar feedback, primal scream style visuals and a crowd blown away by such an unexpected rock and roll performance.

Barnett is destined for big things and acknowledged her rising popularity by saying “the venues just keep getting bigger”. I’m sure she’ll be headlining festivals very soon, but if all else fails she could take up writing witty children’s books. I’d definitely buy them, and I don’t even have children.