Friday, May 22, 2015

Live Shows: Courtney Barnett & Chastity Belt, The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 5/18/15

This summer gives you many options on the 90s nostalgia circuit. If you want to see middle aged men 15 years passed their prime with their current nameless hired backing bands for grossly inflated prices, you have the Summerland Tour, Under the Sun Tour, and more. However, if you want to see acts just hitting their prime that capture the spirit of the 90s better than Sugar Ray ever could, you need to check out the current Courtney Barnett tour.

Before Courtney Barnett, Chastity Belt brought their own blend of 90s nostalgia to the stage. One unimpressed audience member standing near me remarked that he found them too monotonous. And yes, they were, if you just listened to them on the surface. Once you actually focused on them, you realized that each member was seemingly playing their own song, almost unrelated to each other, in a way that just looped around and around. Then they would all pull their parts tightly together. Basically, they were a less aggressive Sonic Youth with drone instead of feedback. Great stuff, and I wished they had more time to play with their sound on stage.

But, everyone was there to see Courtney Barnett. She may have seemed a little jetlagged (she did play a show in Australia on Saturday, and this show was in Boston on Monday, so holy yikes!), but aside from a quip to an audience member that she had no idea where she was or what time it was, she didn't let it affect the show. She played this loose set, bringing more noise to her songs than even remotely evident on her album. For people who bought tickets to her show because it was a Newport Folk Presents event, there is nothing that could have prepared them for the sonic force they encountered. Her bass player, Bones Sloane, played like he was auditioning for Slayer. Barnett live is equal parts the energy of Kurt Cobain and the slacker stylings of Evan Dando. She definitely wears her influences proudly, with two 90s covers displayed prominently (The Breeders' "Cannonball" and The Lemonheads "Being Around"). 

Barnett may be playing smaller venues now, but based on how far in advance her show at The Sinclair sold out and how rabidly the audience accepted her, she won't be for long. You'll want to make sure to check out this tour when it comes your way. Her set at this year's Newport Folk Festival just rocketed to the top of my "must see" list.

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