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Courtney Barnett: BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn 2018

Courtney Barnett at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival (photo by Gus Philippas/WFUV)

Courtney Barnett at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival (photo by Gus Philippas/WFUV)

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It's been a fantastic run of "Summer of FUV" concerts — and a few raindrops couldn't dampen the spirit and fire of Courtney Barnett's benefit concert set on Wednesday night at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, broadcast live on WFUV and archived below.

As a clearly delighted Courtney Barnett grinned and waved at the crowd — and joyfully beamed at her three bandmates — it was apparent that this particular gig was the kind of American homecoming that the Melbourne musician relished, despite the inclement weather. After a week of torrential downpours, the threat of a thunderstorm forced Barnett's show to begin early by an hour and she even had to shorten her setlist by a handful of songs. But resilient New Yorkers — and the Australian rocker's devoted fans — defied the rain and muddy grounds to sit, stand, or sprawl on blankets across the wet grass, celebrating Barnett's return to the borough.

It's been nearly five years since Barnett, back then a relative unknown with only a couple of EPs to her name and a coolly loquacious single called "Avant Gardener," first charmed this city at the 2013 CMJ Festival, playing multiple sets in tiny Brooklyn and Lower East Side venues. It's been a long time since she's dragged her own gear down Ludlow Street, so as tonight's crowd at the Prospect Park Bandshell enthusiastically sang along with older tracks, like the mournful house hunting odyssey "Depreston," from 2015's Sometimes I Just Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Think, or "History Eraser," off of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, the deep affection between artist and audience was palpable. (And a sweet vibe that FUV's co-hosts for the concert, Russ Borris and myself, especially appreciated.)

In fact, "Avant Gardener," that chatty anxiety anthem which first paved Barnett's way on the radio in the States, is still a mainstay of her 2018 set as she tours North America this summer. She's been supporting her second album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, which was released this spring and as she's discussed with candor, was born of agonizing feelings of vulnerability, frustration, and anger with a misogynistic world. Her show at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, with support from Los Angeles's Julien Baker and New York's Vagabon, further reflected a brilliant wave of women with a hell of a lot to say about inclusivity, identity, the patriarchy, and gender parity. The quietly powerful Baker played songs from 2017's haunting Turn Out the Lights and 2015's Sprained Ankle on electric guitar, accompanied only by a violinist, while Vagabon's compelling Lætitia Tamko brought along a full band, rifling through selections from last year's potent Infinite Worlds, like "The Embers."

A tight, intuitive quartet, Barnett and bandmates Bones Sloane on bass, drummer Dave Mudie, and multi-instrumentalist Katie Harkin brought a riveting, bracing ferocity to the forefront, focusing the bulk of the set's first half on tracks from Tell Me How You Really Feel. There were also fascination juxtapositions in every choice. Wistful opener "Hopefulessness" unfolded not with sorrow, but gritty layer of determination, while "Need A Little Time" vacillated between rousing riffs and its infinitely pretty, yearning chorus. Vocally, Barnett is an ever-changing tempest, shifting deftly between the convivial sing-song of "Depreston" to the raspy barks of "Elevator Operator," or the wrenching, feral cry of "I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch." Quite tenderly, "Anonymous Club," with its invitation to "sit close in the dark," felt especially elevated by tonight's surroundings, a wooded venue shrouded in mist and adorned with fairy lights.

Barnett is also a mighty, athletic guitarist and she favored a scarlet Fender Jaguar all night, fiercely shredding her way through a "Nameless, Faceless," "Kim's Caravan," and an especially galvanizing "Small Poppies," a brilliant highlight. She steps onto her pedalboard with gleeful emphasis, as if stomping out a fire, and as she catapulted through songs, like the encore "Pedestrian at Best," bent over her guitar in feverish focus with her hair draped over her face, drenched by sweat, it was absolutely thrilling to behold her mastery of the instrument.

Tonight's set might have been truncated by storms, but it was undeniable that Barnett and her bandmates were their own kind of derecho. The set was the perfect intersection of message and method — Barnett's incisive, insightful words matched with a passionate execution that seemed as satisfying for the band as it was for her fans. She's a remarkable musician, an artist whom FUV has supported from her earliest releases, and we felt especially lucky to be able to broadcast this BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival concert.

If you missed it, you can listen to Courtney's set anytime below. For our next "Summer of FUV" broadcast, we'll be back at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival on August 14 to bring you The Decemberists, live on FUV. You'll find the full line-up of shows here.

Setlist:

  • Hopefulessness
  • City Looks Pretty
  • Charity
  • Need a Little Time
  • Avant Gardener
  • Nameless, Faceless
  • I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch
  • Small Poppies
  • Elevator Operator
  • Depreston
  • Kim's Caravan
  • History Eraser
  • Anonymous Club
  • Pedestrian at Best

[recorded: 7/25/18]

LISTEN

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