Courtney Barnett @ Metropolis Fremantle
w/ East Brunswick All Girls Choir
Saturday, August 18, 2018
A 7pm start time is alarmingly early for a gig on a Saturday night, and on this particular Saturday it seemed like quite a few people with tickets to see Courtney Barnett were caught out, arriving just in time to see the headliner herself. Unfortunately for them, that meant missing out on support act East Brunswick All Girls Choir.
East Brunswick All Girls Choir recently released their second album Teddywaddy through Barnett’s label Milk! Records. As such, their set was full of recent material — droning, driving songs that sit within both the rock and blues genres, with a bit of alt-country twang. Frontman Marcus Hobbs writhes on stage, clearly finding the experience cathartic, especially during the more riotous and raucous songs like Essendon 1986. That said, highlights of the set are when the band pares back to more melodic tracks like Leave The City and Old Phil. It’s just a shame the venue was only half full.
Soon enough it was 8.15pm and the stage was aglow with fairy lights. Intro music played, and on walked Courtney Barnett with her band, picking up their instruments and slipping straight into the opening track from her latest album Hopefulessness. By now, both floors of Metros Freo were full and it was easy to see just how beloved Barnett is. So when she went straight into the upbeat City Looks Pretty without even a pause, the atmosphere electrified. In fact, throughout her entire set, she weaved in and out of songs without a break so casually that it’s obvious she is perfectly at home on stage. The past few years of life on the road have definitely imbued her with self-assurance. She has become the seasoned performer. Even the way she plays her guitar, with her fingers and no plectrum, was languid and mesmerising. Watching her is a joy!
The first of many goosebump moments came when she played anti-ballad Need A Little Time, but it’s Nameless, Faceless that saw the dance floor whip up into a little mosh and everyone yell along to the chorus “I wanna walk through the park in the dark/ Women are scared that men will kill them!” A lot of her tracks from her last album have moments of real guttural vocals and as she slipped into I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch it’s like a fire was lit in her belly. Stepping away from her earlier narrative style, these tracks gave her the opportunity to really shred on her guitar and thrash those vocal chords.
Throughout the night as she played a mix of old and new, her evolution as an artist was clear; from the storytelling of early EPs, to the hits of her debut album, and her latest, more plugged-in sound. Indeed her older songs got the most screams, especially single Elevator Operator, but Barnett seems most enthused playing her new material. She put the call out for requests and chose Depreston, another goosebumps singalong.
A sign of a great gig is when an hour and a half has passed by but it feels like mere minutes, and the crowd legitimately wants an encore. Anonymous Club, stunning recorded and stunning live, lulled the audience into a dream, but it was Pedestrian At Best (perfect for yelling along to) that ended the night on an absolute high. Courtney Barnett is awesome.
10pm. Time for a beer.
Photos by Daniel Hildebrand