May 22, 2015

That Was The Show That Was: Courtney Barnett with Chastity Belt, Darren Hanlon | The Sinclair | 18 May

That Was The Show That Was: Courtney Barnett with Chastity Belt, Darren Hanlon | The Sinclair | 18 May

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] As with the very best of rockers pegged with the descriptor "slacker," charming Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett excels at quantifying the mundane. It's in Ms. Barnett's unaffected, down-under drawl, her unhurried guitar heroism, hell, it's even in her album title: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. It's unsurprising, then, that a songwriter so adept at capturing everyday nothingness in song would be so frank about jetlag on the first night of what's undoubtedly one of the biggest tours of her career.

About halfway through her set Monday night at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Mass., Barnett took to the mic in a daze and mumbled this gem in response to some fan requests: "Don't confuse me, I don't know where I am or what day it is." Fortunately her mild disorientation did not affect her performance in the least. There were few errant notes beyond the infrequent, artful clam dropped in the way only a crack live band that's logged miles and miles on the road playing the same songs night after night can pull off. And that's what struck us most about the evening: The Courtney Barnett Three -- as they were introduced -- are truly professional and road-hardened, pros despite the "slacker" designation. Barnett possesses a singular talent to be sure, but what makes the Three such a compelling live act, and what really seems to push Sometimes ahead of her previous efforts, is the band's apparent chemistry, particularly among the rhythm section.

Along with fiery takes on Sometimes standouts like the lowered-expectations lament "Pedestrian At Best" and "Elevator Operator," Barnett and co. Monday offered up geographically appropriate covers in The Breeders' "Cannonball" and Lemonheads' "Being Around." The former played up Barnett's likeness to Kim Deal, in that each woman's best songs possess a casual brilliance, whose hooks tumble from their heads like little Athenas, perfect miracles and brilliant little pop moments. "Being Around" by Lemonheads was a supreme choice given that modern-day fronter Evan Dando was a known quantity around and frequent habitué of Australia decades ago; the song also complemented well Barnett's own plainspoken lyrical style.

Garagey Seattle upstarts Chastity Belt and Australia's own Darren Hanlon -- most famous around Clicky Clicky HQ for this amazing 2010 pop confection -- opened the gig and each played to a nearly full room, which we think says plenty of good things about the Boston show-going community. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is available right here now via Mom + Pop Music. Stream some selected cuts from the record, a live session, and some Chastity Belt tunes via the various embeds below. -- Dillon Riley

Courtney Barnett: Facebook | Internerds | Soundcloud | tumblahhhhh

Chastity Belt: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Darren Hanlon: Facebook | Internerds

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