Courtney Barnett at the White Stage | Mark Thompson photos
A good part of Courtney Barnett’s success, especially in Japan where she’s managed to generate a dedicated cult, is her seemingly unforced honesty, a quality that is manifest in the Australian rocker’s songs, which sound like a person you really want to know talking in plain language. The fact that she can marry this artistic sensibility to kickass guitar rock without making it sound ironic or contrary only makes her that much more unusual, even in the rarefied world of indie rock.
She had a lot to contend with during her afternoon set at the White Stage, for the most part an audience whose exuberance was literally dampened by one of those downpours that soaks you to the bone in less than a minute. There was actually a river running through the north side of the White Stage field. She voiced her appreciation for us standing there just to hear her play, and then she ripped the place up.
Another saving grace was that she looked great. Gone are the baggy T-shirts and homemade haircut. She looked rock star ready in her pure white tank top and tight black jeans, and when she tore through one her patented pick-and-strum (no pick!) solos the crowd got back a little of its mojo.
“You know this is the best festival in the world,” she said near the end of her set. “Thanks so much for making it possible for me to come.” Gratuitous pleasantries in most artists’ mouths, but Barnett makes her living telling it like it is.
She even played a new song called “Everybody Hates You,” proving that honesty cuts both ways. When she started her last song, the rain stopped, as if the weather decided it would give her, and her fans, a break.