Girls with Guitars [mostly talking about a Courtney Barnett gig]

I discovered Courtney Barnett a while ago but only enjoyed the album occasionally and from a distance, not with the sometime obsessive vigour female solo artists sometimes awaken in me (I’m looking at St Vincent, I’m looking at Kate Jackson). While she won awards for her music, witty songwriting and even cover artwort, I enjoyed her partner (in life and music) Jen Chloer’s back catalogue after the Guardian highlighted her to me last year and have done often since. I’ve managed to miss Jen gigging twice. In September 2017 (when I ummed and ahhed about whether I was too busy at work for a late night at a mid-week gig only for the tickets at the intimate Manchester venue to sell out, extremely rock and roll) and February when Jen happened to be playing another cool Manchester venue on my the very day I turned 28 and had birthday plans elsewhere.

Turns out Barnett played the guitar on at least one of those tours.

At her Leeds gig in May the charismatic Aussie commented that at a Jen Chloer gig the audience’s chants of ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire’ had been misconstrued as ‘You’re shit’. I imagine she was anything but. So now I’m doubly gutted to have missed the dates.

If you haven’t heard of Courtney Barnett yet (the Leeds gig wasn’t sold out), where have you been? She’s won a shit tonne of accolades and just released a second, highly anticipated second solo album (since 2015 when her first record Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit she has gigged with Chloer and released a studio album with Kurt Vile). She’s currently touring Europe, appeared at the inaugural All Points East Festival and is curating Sonic City later this year.

Having listened to, and been absolutely hooked on, the new album Tell Me How You Really Feel I was looking forward to seeing Barnett but nothing could have prepared me for what was one of my favourite gigs to ever. This, by the way, isn’t a review. I’d have had to get my act into gear a hell of a lot more swiftly if it was. What it is is an expression of awe at an amazing performer and intelligent lyricist. She didn’t chat much between songs (playing the whole of the new album and a load of old favourites during a pretty long set) but the audience was hooked. Instead of the usual sea of raised smartphones, recording the whole thing, people even seemed, and this is pretty out there, to be enjoying the music and being in the moment.

Since the gig I’ve found myself mesmerised with old interviews, performances and a new appreciation for her clever, catchy lyrics.

After a really great gig there’s a funny mix of stuff in that little space between my ears. I want everyone to have been there and know how amazing it was but equally feel protective over my own experience; I don’t want to share it. The same is true when I see the tour continuing. I wondered whether to post this, a week after the event. It was serendipitous, then, that when procrastinating on Instagram someone I follow had posted from tonight’s London show. And there it was. I’m pleased that the tour is a success, surely that can only lead to more shows on any later tours and more chance of future albums and all that but the pang of envy that someone else is experiencing what could well be one of their favourite ever gigs, as it was mine, is strong. That, though, is the test of a good show, I guess.

I’ll tell you how I really feel (couldn’t resist): I already can’t wait to catch Barnett live again.

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