Live music is just special. In these crazy times we live in, music can really help you tune it all out. Some nights can just be more special than others. It could be the artist, the songs, the venue, or the crowd. When all of those things click it’s the best thing in the world. This is exactly what happened with Courtney Barnett at the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday night.
The Iron Horse Music Hall is a very tiny place that really packed the audience in. With seating all around the venue’s upper floor and the sides of the lower floor and a general admission space in front of the stage, it felt like a venue from the 70’s come alive today. The acoustics were tremendous and though the sight lines may not have been great everywhere, something both acts alluded to, spirits were incredibly high for all in attendance.
The night started with Anike Ostendorf, better known as Hachiku. She is a fellow Milk Records artist with Courtney, and while yes she is also a singer-songwriter, it is definitely of a different breed. Where you traditionally think of those you think of someone with an acoustic guitar and a stories, but it was the 21st century version where there were loops, drum pads, and enough guitar pedals for an army, but the mix of them never felt like it was too much. The songs were fantastic and though she wasn’t the loudest between songs while telling some stories and jokes and getting everyone to stomp on the floor to play a prank on Courtney, the crowd hung on her every word. Fitting in two great covers into her short set, “99 Luftbaloons” by Nena, and song partially in German, and The Cranberries “Dreams,” alongside her own material, Hachiku got a huge ovation once her set ended.
Courtney Barnett took the stage to a thunderous ovation and quickly got to work with a quick hello and right into to “Avant Gardener.” If you didn’t know better you would have thought she had played this way her whole career. All she was armed with was one of two electric guitars she had with her and her voice and it was an absolute masterclass. The songs she writes, with their sharp lyrcis and stories, felt at home in this setting. Courtney didn’t thrash around as she does normally and instead opted for minimal movement all night while still tearing up her guitar in a way many of us could only dream of.
Between songs Courtney joked with the audience, such as after “Elevator Operator” when she noted that the song had too many words and she was out of breath. She sad she didn’t want to lie to us about knowing how to truly sing so that wouldn’t happen, so she decided that she wouldn’t. The whole evening felt like we had been invited to her living room and she was just pulling songs out of the air to weave magic for us. While she only took one request at the end of the night, Courtney listened to the audience yell out song suggestions and thought about playing a few.
During the night, a few of the songs she played have back up singer parts and without prompting the audience sang their hearts out for them like in “Sunday Roast” and “Depreston” and Courtney reveled in smiling from ear to ear. Before “Everybody Hates You Here” she told the audience how comfortable she felt on stage and how she can be nervous for these solo gigs at times but honestly there was none of that. She then reminded everyone that the following song wasn’t about them, or her, and was just a silly song and to continue to be kind to one another.
Most of the venue sang along all night, so when Courtney forgot what the next line in “Let It Go” from her collaboration with Kurt Vile, a woman in the front fed her the lyrics, leading to laughs from Courtney for the rest of the song and a high five to the woman after. Again that magic was just in the air on Friday. With the venue being so small Courtney opted to not have a proper encore and to just keep playing. She thanked everyone for coming and made mention of how she was happy to be in Northampton as she googled it before the show and saw it was one of the friendliest to those in the LGBTQA+ community and maybe that was another reason she was feeling so comfortable on stage.
She then played four more songs including “Being Around” by the Lemonheads, which sounded like Courtney could have wrote it with it’s witty lyrics followed by “History Eraser” and a serene “Untitled (Play It On Repeat).” With one more quick thank you she said he’s one for the lady up front who requested this earlier but I wasn’t ready to do it then Courtney told us it was a Gillian Welch cover and that if none of us had her records, we should go get some immediately. With that she dove into “Everything is Free.” Once it was over a quick wave and a standing ovation from the crowd signaled that it was all over. For those couple of hours though the whole crowd got to escape the world and listen to two great artists melt their worries away.
Article: Bryan Lasky