Courtney Barnett with Chastity Belt @ 9:30 Club Washington, D.C.

Okay—I admittedly went into this show pretty biased. I think Courtney Barnett is the coolest girl on the planet. I’m not sure she could have done anything to warrant a bad review. However, I don’t know that I was ready to be this completely blown away. This was, without a doubt, the best show I’ve seen in years.

Support for the show came from Darren Hanlon (whom I unfortunately missed), and Chastity Belt, by way of Seattle. The four-piece started their set with a bubbly, kind of juvenile California surf rock, but three songs in lead singer and guitar player Julia Shapiro let out a scream and did a complete 180. From that point on they lurked around the late 80s and left a moody sting in the room between sets. The girls are young, new, and this is their first major tour. In a year they’re going to blow up. I hope so, anyway. You can catch them later this year with the likes of TV on the Radio, Built to Spill, Shannon and the Clams, Mega Bog, Twin Peaks, and Wire. These girls keep good company, and I hope for more dark, grouchy tunes in the future.

Courtney Barnett wasted absolutely no time getting down to business. She started with a jolting version of “Elevator Operator.” Courtney ad libs and throws her guitar around, yet never misses a beat. She proves her ability as a musician with what comes across as so little effort it’s almost unbelievable. All the while, her voice is imperfect and gritty, but controlled with notable range. Playing sans pick, Barnett never lost the crowd for moment while fingering through a mix of arpeggios and power chords.

I nearly lost my mind when she played a flawless version of “Depreston,” a personal favorite from her recent album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. It’s a slower number about growing old and dying viewed through the process of purchasing real estate in a suburb of Melbourne. The crowd singing along to the coda, “if you’ve got a spare half a million/you could knock it down and start rebuilding,” was truly something special. She quickly moved on to holler and sling her hair around through “Pedestrian at Best” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” bringing the energy right back up to 11. Barnett wrapped up the encore with You Am I’s lyrically stunning, “Heavy Heart,” and an earlier piece of her own, “History Eraser.”


I don’t think my words do the show the justice it deserves. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t genius. It was rock and roll. It was messy and dirty, with an air of femininity that few artists are really able to capture. For me, Courtney Barnett really personifies feminism at it’s absolute best. She’s minimal with her appearance, and has a deadpan sort of delivery. Yet, she identifies with an audience of women of all types while resonating equally with the men in the crowd. She plays out what it’s like to be a person constantly seeking some semblance of bliss in a world that is an imperfect and often disappointing place. She’s heartbroken, but she’s learning. She’s bored, but she’s moving on. And vice versus. She gets us.

Courtney’s rambling around the U.S. through July and will make her way to Europe starting in August, and this fangirl cannot recommend hitting up one of her shows enough.

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Joe Strummer made me do it.

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