By Thomas Metzger
Australian indie-rocker Courtney Barnett has become somewhat of an indie rock legend. She has two albums, 2015’s critically acclaimed album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, and her most recent release, 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel. Along with a lengthy EP and a collaborative album with Kurt Vile, Barnett has quickly climbed the ladder to indie rock fame.
However, her stardom did not show, but rather her down-to-earth attitude to a packed Knitting Factory audience. On February 4, Barnett stripped down her usual full-band, rock and roll compositions to a single person on stage. Armed with three amps and her iconic left-handed Fender Telecaster, Barnett delivered a powerful but intimate performance.
Barnett performed a multitude of songs from all of her discography. She opened with the song “Avant Gardener” off her album The Double EP: Sea of Split Peas before diving into two tracks from her most recent album, “Need A Little Time” and “Nameless Faceless.”
In between songs, Barnett engaged in witty banter with the audience, talking about her trip up the coast of California to how Australia doesn’t get a lot of snow. Also cracking jokes with the audience, Barnett seemed to get more relaxed and in her element as the show went on. You could see the joy on her face when the audience would sing her words back to her, almost in disbelief.
Barnett also performed a handful of covers from various artists including the Lemonheads, Gillian Welch, and even a rendition of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams.
Hachiku opened the show and also delivered a fantastic performance. Her set incorporated elements of electronic, pop and rock while also delivering an intimate solo performance.
One surprise came when my friends pointed out to Barnett that it was my birthday. She then proceeded to lead the whole Knitting Factory into a rendition of “Happy Birthday,” a moment I will never forget. She then asked what song I wanted to hear, to which I replied “Elevator Operator!” Barnett then started the song, stating, “This one’s for Thomas.”
Another surprise came when Barnett performed the song “Let It Go” off her collaborative album with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice. A deeper cut on the album, and this song had a distinctive difference between other songs in the set. This song featured prominent fingerpicking technique from Barnett, while she also sang both her and Kurt Vile’s verses.
Courtney Barnett is becoming a popular name in indie rock, but you would’ve never known by the way she acted on stage. She was extremely grounded, delivering an intimate performance that gathered hundreds of people from outside in the cold into the Knitting Factory. In a big venue, she was able to deliver a performance that you would find in a local coffee shop.
When you strip back Courtney Barnett’s songs, you understand why she’s become so popular. Witty lyrics mixed with a singer-songwriter feel that was more apparent once you leave her with just her and her guitar on stage. One can only wonder where she can go from here, and you are always welcome back to Boise, Courtney.