Photo Credits: Alexa Viscius
Courtney Barnett performed at Pitchfork music festival on Sunday 13th November, and this gig changed the course of my life; by which I mean I can’t stop thinking about it. Courtney Barnett is a genius. I can only hope that we would be best friends if life was better because her lyrics are just intelligent, poetic articulations of every thought I’ve ever had.
I first discovered Courtney Barnett in 2015 with the release of Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, the album for which she was nominated the Grammy Award for ‘Best New Artist’ in 2016. I have a vivid memory of ‘revising’ for my GCSEs while staring at the poster that came free with the album, reflecting upon how, in that moment, I was just sitting and not thinking.
Barnett was on the bill for the last day of Pitchfork music festival with Cate Le Bon, Big Joanie, Léa Sen, Fake Fruit, Gretel Hänlyn and Samia. I arrived just in time to catch Cate Le Bon who I was eager to see; her music was such a source of inspiration and hope during lockdown. She exudes that kind of creativity that reminds you that exciting things are happening even if most things seem bleak. Her performance was transcendental and her stage presence commanded respect, it was a privilege to hear her perform live. The multi-layered, jaunty instrumental intro to my favourite song from her 2019 album Reward: ‘Mothers, Mothers Magazines’ was all the more impressive in real life. Mid-way through her set Le Bon asked the audience if we’d ever had dessert with our mains, before inviting Barnett onstage for a performance of her 2017 song, ‘Rock Pool’. Barnett accompanied Le Bon on guitar; the artists have been friends for a couple of years and their onstage chemistry proved it.
Barnett arrived on stage at 9:30. She was playing the red Fender Jaguar that she got to match the red album cover of her 2018 album Tell me How You Really Feel, and she looked so cool. The genius is in her lyricism, although her delivery was also seamless. It was easy to tell she is a well-versed performer, the whole set was so tight. She played a multiplicity of songs from over the years. I could have cried when she started playing ‘Depreston’, the song about buying a house in the suburbs after living in the city for too long. It becomes apparent throughout the song that the house belongs to a widow. It’s poignant and fantastic. Then came ‘Pedestrian at Best’, the song that Pitchfork describes as ‘a live-and-direct dispatch from the center [sic] of Barnett's considerable brain’, it is loud and chaotic, the audience loved it. The Nirvana influence is notable on this track and it sounds incredible. ‘If I Don’t Hear from You Tonight’ is a song from her most recent album Things Take Time, Take Time (2021). It had passed me by when it first came out, but the live performance was so moving that I’ve listened to it on repeat all week. She ended with ‘Before You Gotta Go’, another new track that felt particularly sentimental given the context. It was the perfect song to close such a memorable show; ‘Before you gotta go, go, go, go/I wanted you to know, know, know, know/You're always on my mind’.
Edited by Lucy Blackmur, Music Editor