One thing we noticed about this year’s schedule is that more time seems to have been set aside between acts. We’re not sure as to the reason, since there’s very rarely a problem with someone going on late due to lengthy equipment changes. But one issue that has arisen is that instead of staggering acts on competing stages, often the acts will overlap. That’s only a problem when there are two acts you really want to see playing at the same time. Theoretically, the fans of Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett are probably not the exact same ones for the L.A. neo-soul Odd Future outfit The Internet, but we happen to love both, so there was a quandary.
Courtney played first at the Red Marquee at 3:50. Dressed all in black, with a T-shirt inscribed with the words “BAD SEED” on it, she was even looser and more confident than when we saw her last October at a club in Tokyo. The shed was totally packed, despite the fine weather outside, and the response was warm and enthusiastic. Unfortunately, Courtney’s presentation, which is sort of sloppy and earnest, sounded like crap in the Red Marquee, which is not kind to loud, sloppy rock due to the acoustics. Since we know most of the songs, we could enjoy it, but you could tell some in the audience who weren’t familiar with her music couldn’t quite get a purchase on the melodies and the guitar work. We left during “Depreston,” one of her mellower tracks, and it actually sounded perfect for that reason.
We booked over to the White Stage to catch the Internet, which took a little longer owing to the crowd that was leaving the Field of Heaven, so we missed the first song. Syd the Kid, resplendent in a dark grey hoodie, was relaxed and affable, joking with the audience and marvelling at how many people had actually shown up to see them. “This is a big-assed crowd,” keyboardist Matt Martians said, and got everybody to scream at the top of their lungs just because he wanted to see what a big-assed audience sounded like. We suppose that means The Internet doesn’t normally play to big-assed audiences.
Syd, for her part, got the crowd to deliver the chorus — “you fucked up” — to the song “Just Say,” and we acquitted ourselves admirably, but the whole set was even looser than Courtney’s and sounded ten times better. Despite the big-assed audience, the group played as if they were in someone’s living room, and Syd’s cool, sexy voice delivered her stories of heartbreak and jealousy with all the anger and passion of Nina Simone. It was a great show by a singer and a band who know how to please because they are obviously difficult to please themselves. (text: Philip Brasor; photos: Mark Thompson)