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Archive for the ‘Courtney Barnett’ Category

[ATTENDED: January 31, 2018] Jen Cloher

Sarah and I saw Jen Cloher open for Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile.  But because of traffic and parking, we saw barely two songs by her.  Her set (like Barnett & Vile’s) was acoustic.  She announced that she would be playing at Johnny Brenda’s in January and that her set would be much more rocking.  She also teased out that Courtney would be playing lead guitar for her.  Those two details made me want to see the show.  And I’m really glad I went.

I hadn’t been to Johnny Brenda’s before.  I heard it was small and sight lines could be tough if you got there late.  This show was sold out but I must have gotten there early because I was almost right in front of the stage (I was behind a woman who basically took up three spots with how often she moved around).

After being pretty far from Courtney at the previous set I made sure to set up on her side of the stage.  And it was pretty electric when she came out to tune up he guitar.  I saw that Kurt Vile was hanging around off to the side of the stage too, although he didn’t come out or anything. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 31, 2018] Mia Dyson

I had never heard of Mia Dyson before this show.  She is a fellow Australian and old friend of Jen Cloher’s.  I arrived just after her set was underway (amazingly, this was my first time at Johnny Brenda’s, I haven’t quite sussed out parking there, yet).

Mia’s set was really enjoyable.  She has a kind of Bonnie Raitt/rootsy vibe.  As she was singing her songs and I was impressed with her vocal power, her guitar playing and the cool bass and drums parts these songs had.

I don’t really love roots music typically, but her set worked great live.  And the audience responded appropriately.  She even said that she had played Philly and never had a good show here, until this one. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY BARNETT AND KURT VILE-Tiny Desk Concert #682 (December 8, 2017).

Kurt and Courtney were the unexpected hit pairing of 2017.  Enough has been said about how they don’t exactly seem like they should fit but how well they do.

I’ve said that I wish the album rocked a bit harder, but really it’s live that this duo is terrific.  We saw them a few months back and it was a lot of fun.

But this Tiny Desk Concert is twice as fun because of how unserious they are.  As the blurb says:

Put your love of perfection outside the office door and come in for some office fun. This collaboration between Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile and Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett is more about newfound friends poking jabs, goofing around and having fun with words than reaching any new musical heights. It’s a much welcome injection of humor in the world of rock music and if you’ve heard their collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice, you’ll find this Tiny Desk performance musically even more casual. It’s akin to hearing friends play after a few afternoon beers, which is kind of what happened. (We actually had to page folks in the building hoping for some brew and were quite surprised at what the NPR staff had stashed in the fridge.)

They start with their hit “Over Everything.” It sounds great even if they are very casual about it.  There’s lot of laughing between them, and their harmonies sound fantastic.  After the song Kurt pops open a beer (clearly his second).

Courtney apologies for all the tuning they’ll have to do.  “Good thing I don’t have all 12 strings.”

I love the sentiments and melodies of “Continental Breakfast”

Then Bob says, “Thanks to everyone who donated beer to make this concert possible.”  Courtney: “Yea, that happened very quickly.  Everyone has one beer hidden in their desk here.”

Kurt takes off his denim jacket and says, “Don’t mind my muscle shirt–I was working out.”

Kurt and Courtney tend to bring out the adolescence in one another, inspiring Kurt to pick out a song he wrote when he was roughly fourteen called “Blue Cheese” about, well, I’m not sure. But lines like, “I didn’t mean to cough on her/Forgot to add the fabric softener,” just make me laugh; and in 2017, in a deeply serious political landscape, I find that quite refreshing.

They joke their way through “Blue Cheese,” as you must.  He plays a harmonica solo and admits, “that was terrible.”  When it’s over he says, “I wrote that song when I was 12.”

The final song “Let It Go,” has Courtney on lead while Kurt sings some nice high backing vocals.

The whole show is light-hearted and fun, but they never make a mockery of the music.  It’s just a casual good time.

[READ: November 1, 2017] Spinning

This is a memoir about competitive ice skating.  But it is much more than that.

Interestingly, I found the intensity of the ice skating competitions to be a perfectly satisfying and compelling story in and of itself.  So at first, when Walden began adding other things from her life, I wasn’t sure if these (rather important) aspects of her life could be shoehorned into a story about ice skating.

But it soon became apparent that the skating, which was such a big part of her life, was in fact, a rather small part of her life.

Of course, the fact that Walden is 21 and stopped skating when she was 18 shows just how big a part of her life the skating was. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 3, 2017] Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

I have been a fan of Courtney Barnett’s since I first saw her on a Tiny Desk Concert about 3 years ago.  Bob and Robin from All Songs Considered have raved about her and her live show.  I was really bummed to have found out about her last Philly show a little too late.

So she has been high on my list of artists to see.

I really like a bunch of Kurt Vile songs, although I don’t listen to him all that much (but “Pretty Pimpin'” is amazing).  When they got together for this album/tour, it kind of made sense.  Although I found that I was a little disappointed that Courtney played more like Kurt than Kurt played like Courtney.  The album is kind of slacker folkie and not indie rocking.  Although the good spirit and fun that they clearly had quickly won me over.

I knew the backing band was the Sea Lice, with a somewhat revolving cast.  I was hoping to get Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney on drums, but instead we had Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, who was terrific, Rob Laakso (from Kurt’s Violators) on bass and Katie Harkin (Sky Larkin) on keyboards (with wonderful backing vocals). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 3, 2017] Jen Cloher

Sarah and I were really excited to see Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile.  And we were really intrigued that Courtney’s wife, Jen Cloher was opening for them (it is not lost on me that Courtney has said she used to go to see Jen when Courtney was just starting out and that Jen is opening for her).

I have never been to the Tower Theater before.  I had been told it’s a great venue.  Well, Sarah and I had a pretty miserable experience in and around the venue (which had nothing to do with the music).  It took forever to get there.  Sure, it was a Friday night, but it took us almost two hours.  The Theater is in a fairly residential area, so the traffic around it was dreadful.  And then parking was a nightmare, and we had to pay $20 at a garage that was clearly just people co-opting a commuter parking lot and making money off of it.  The Theater entrance was packed, so it took about five minutes to get through the security and ticket checkers.  And then the front foyer was just a mass of wall to wall people.  When we finally got to the actual theater entrance, Cloher was already playing and there were no ushers to help us with our seats.

We got to our seats, finally, and managed to hear all of two songs. (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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dec2014SOUNDTRACK: BOOGIE-Live at SXSW (March 21, 2015).

boogieAt this year’s SXSW, NPR had a showcase featuring 5 artists.  One was Courtney Barnett (see Saturday’s post).  The other artists were Stromae, TV on the Radio and Shamir.  I assumed that they’d be posting full shows from all the artists.  But aside from the Courtney Barnett show and two songs from Stromae, the boogie show is the only other one that we can view.

The first artist was rapper Boogie. Boogie is from Compton and he defied Compton stereotypes by not only not singing about gangs (well, he does but not as a gang member) but actually speaking about love and change. Like many rappers he has a weird tic (most seem to say Uh huh, yeah, but he says “wuh wuh” a lot). It’s a bit tiresome but not the end of the world.

I didn’t enjoy his first few songs because although his introductions to the songs were really nice—about love and respecting women while disrespecting bitches etc, I thought his lyrics were really poor.  Just a ton of repeated fucks and bitches. It was lazy.  And the second song “Bitter Raps” was just list of things he doesn’t like, which I also thought was weak—although may be the crowd enjoyed it.

And the beats weren’t all that interesting to me—I don’t really like the music behind West Coast rap so that’s a strike against it for me anyhow.

But by the end of his set I thought he really showed some good stuff.  “Gangbangin’” was a really good song (rhyming bullshit with pulpit was clever). “God Work” was also good, but “Oh My” was the best song of the night—a great chorus of “Oh my goodness” was funny but also effective.  Using his 5 year old son as a sample was also fun as the boy really enjoyed putting so words down for his dad.

By the end of the set with “The Change,” he had won me over, and while I won’t be listening to him again, I imagine he was a good warm up for the night.

You can watch his set here.

[READ:March 25, 2015] “Forbidden City”

I enjoyed this story a lot more than I was expecting to.  It’s not that I thought it would be bad, I just didn’t really have any expectations.  I barely know Dyer at all.  But it proved to be really enjoyable.  Although I feel like the ending was a bit of a let down (and how could it not be, with the way it was set up?).

James is a (British) author on a tour of China.  He has been to many cities in China and he is exhausted.  He had been to Shanghai and Beijing and he had been plied with many many drinks.  These combined with his jetlag to wipe him out.

He was being chaperoned by Min, the coordinator from his Chinese publisher and although she had done just about everything with him, she was relentlessly cheerful and up.  And on his last day the last thing he wanted to hear was that she had scheduled a tour of the Forbidden City.  He feared the well meaning and knowledgeable tour guide would bore him silly as they walked around the huge Forbidden City in stultifying Beijing heat. (more…)

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