The inaugural Here and There Festival, the Courtney Barnett curated traveling tour, pulled into Mass MoCA located Western Massachusetts this past weekend. This stop had the most artists playing on a single date for the whole tour with seven playing instead of the usual three or four at every other stop. There were sun and clouds all day, making for an ideal late summer day full of music, food, and art.
Hana Vu began the day as a good amount of people were there early to make sure they didn’t miss a note of music. The set was full of catchy songs that could easily get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Hana has been steadily gaining steam after the release of her debut album last fall and you can hear why when she plays the songs live.
Following a quick turnaround on stage, which would happen all day leaving plenty of time for each band to play their whole set, Bartees Strange came out and floored the crowd with a non-stop set showing why he’s one of the most exciting acts to see live right now. He’s been on quite the streak since the music industry came back moving from opening slots of Lucy Dacus to Car Seat Headrest to The National and has his own headlining tour coming this fall.
One thing that was great to see through out the day was every artist was watching one another from the side of the stage. This doesn’t happen all the time, especially at festivals since usually everyone is so busy and can’t watch friends play their sets, but because it was only one stage and it was a fairly laid back affair, everyone got to enjoy the day of music for once. Lucy Dacus even mentioned in her set how nice it was to play with a bunch of artists she likes and being able to watch them do their thing.
Unfortunately Men I Trust had to pull out of this stop, but that set went to Caroline Rose playing a rare solo acoustic set. She cracked plenty of jokes between songs, like how this was the most metal acoustic set ever as well as saying so I’ll be Lady Gaga today and I just thought this would be a fun little set to do outside of the stadiums. Caroline played both rare and new songs for the crowd who hung on her every word.
The Beths then played a tight 11 songs including two from their upcoming album Experts in a Dying Field. The New Zealand four piece really didn’t waste a second and just pummeled the audience for 45 minutes. The way that every band just kept upping the energy level as the day went on was perfect. Sometimes shows like this don’t flow perfectly, but Courtney really did a great job of curating this show.
During “Better Distractions” Faye Webster’s opening song, she gave the audience a smile and laugh after her inflatable statue finally was finished filling. With that distraction out of the way, Faye played ten more songs, leaning heavily on her fantastic I Know I’m Funny HAHA that came out last year. The crowd sang every word back to her and by “Kingston” it almost felt like the crowd may drown her out.
With the sun beginning to set and the entire field full of blankets and chairs the further you went from the stage, giving the day an almost picnic in the park feel, Lucy Dacus went into “Triple Dog Dare” and had nothing but a smile on her face during her set. The crowd reached a fever pitch early on during “Hot & Heavy”. By the end of the set the sun had completely disappeared and a simple but fantastic light show began for the rest of the night. Ending with a great run of “Kissing Lessons”, a cover of Cher’s “Believe” and “Night Shift” could have easily closed the night out with how crazy the crowd went.
But the curator still had to play and the crowd in front of the stage was ready for it. With a quick wave hello, Courtney Barnett, alongside bandmates Bones Sloane and Dave Mudie, went right into Rae Street and never turned back. The sixteen song set had six songs each from her first album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit and her latest Things Take Time, Take Time. Courtney always throws her whole body into the performances, but by the end of “Small Poppies” it felt like it was taken to a new level.
Courtney thanked everyone for coming and for every band who played the festival. With thank you out of the ways, she began to bring up a couple of special guests to help out on a few songs. Faye Webster returned to trade off vocals on “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” followed soon by Bartees Strange for a one-two punch of “Pedestrian at Best” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party” where he prowled all over the stage playing some of the most unhinged guitar solos of the day. The whole day ended with an encore of “Before You Gotta Go”, which felt like Courtney having a little fun with the setlist. Hopefully she curates another round next year as this has the potential to become an amazing yearly showcase of great songwriters.
Article/Images: Bryan Lasky