Come in Hot and Melt Faces
Article and Photos By: Derrick Rossignol
Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett is coming off a particularly productive stretch, known as her entire career: She's released three albums since 2015, including her collaborative effort with Kurt Vile, last year's Lotta Sea Lice. Now she's touring in support of 2018's Tell Me How You Really Feel, and while she would have every excuse to feel a bit tired, if she is, that doesn't come through on stage.
Barnett began her set at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine last night with the slow-burning and intense album opener, "Hopefulessness," which she performed bathed in red light that gradually grew in brightness as the track bloomed over the course of its intense crescendo. The rest of her set was delightfully more of the same, with Barnett going back and forth between the more chilled out songs that have caused the "slacker rock" label to so often be attached to her, and some more kinetic rockers.
She received excellent support from Julien Baker, who opened the show with a much more restrained set, a vibe much in line with her most recent album, 2017's Turn Out The Lights. Accompanied by a violinist and herself playing on just guitar and keyboard, Baker's serene compositions served as an ideal and calming appetizer for Barnett's more raucous aesthetic.
"Restrained" may have been the wrong word to use about Baker, actually, because when the songs reach their climax, Baker absolutely belts it out, opening her mouth wide enough to let everything inside out, which sounds like it's a lot. Baker and Barnett both know when to lean back and chill, and when to come in hot and melt faces, a quality that served both them and the audience well during an entertaining evening in downtown Portland.