Chicago – Uptown’s Riviera Theatre was filled to capacity with an interesting mix of fans excited to see twenty-eight year-old Australian singer-songwriter and guitar maven Courtney Barnett, who was joined by Nashville rock band Bully. The Grammy nominated modern folk singer has been drawing large, diverse crowds thanks to her honest and relatable lyrics, which are composed with plenty of wit and sarcasm.
And of course, there’s her phenomenal guitar playing. Just a few days prior to her sold-out Chicago show, Barnett shredded at Coachella, shortly after being deemed “Songwriter of the Year” by the APRA Awards. Personally, I had only seen Courtney Barnett perform at festivals – particularly Bonnaroo and Pitchfork – so I was curious to see how an indoor performance would differ. Number one contrast: those lights! Barnett glowed a rainbow of colors under projections of neon doodles, psychedelic graphics, and vivid photographs and video. Number two: the confinement of sound allowed for her guitar to echo throughout the old theatre, blanketing fans in sheets of psychedelic infused folk rock. What was similar? Courtney Barnett blowing minds and being a total badass.
The night started out with the environmentally conscious “Dead Fox,” off her debut LP Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop). Barnett and her band, currently comprised of drummer Dave Mudie and bassist Bones Sloane, got straight to it. Blue light fell upon the three, as they harmonized “bah, dah, dah.” Barnett bobbed back and forth. Hair covered her face, while moving to and fro. She intensely strummed her guitar, at times beating it like a bass. She performed over fifteen songs and plenty of fan favorites, including “Pedestrian at Best” and “Kim’s Caravan,” and the new song “Three Packs a Day.”
After “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” Barnett left the stage. People hollered and applauded over the feedback coming from her guitar, which she left on, close to her amp. Barnett eventually came back out for an encore, starting with “Pickles from the Jar.” She ended the night with “Avant Gardener,” from The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. Fans danced and sang along.
Bully started the night out with heaps of grungy garage rock. Just a few months ago, Bully played TNK Fest in Chicago. The Nashville foursome might as well call Chicago its second home, given the love shown for the band and the amount of shows Bully plays in the city frontwoman Alicia Bognanno once called home. In fact, Bully’s upcoming July show, at Empty Bottle, sold-out in one day. Between screams of, “I love you Alicia,” Bognanno belted out tunes from Feels Like, including “Milkman” and “Trying.” She was joined on stage by guitarist Clayton Parker and bassist Reece Lazarus. Though, like the last time Bully played Chicago, drummer Stewart Copeland did not join the band; instead, Matt Hearn sat in on drums. Regardless, the band still sounded incredible.
Courtney Barnett is currently on tour in North America. This summer she’ll be playing numerous festivals, including Governors Ball. A full list of dates can be found on her Facebook page.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.