The Aussie-accent­ed, coun­try-tinged tones of Court­ney Bar­net­t’s songs have been float­ing over the Radio 6 music air­waves of late.

Last Thurs­day was her sec­ond Lon­don appear­ance, this time at Ace Hotel, Shored­itch. Court­ney takes keeps things min­i­mal, walk­ing on stage to plug all the leads in before she’s joined by her bass play­er and drum­mer. With no intro­duc­tion, the band gets right down to the first number.

courtney barnett sings

It is imme­di­ate­ly clear that the smoothed-out record­ed ver­sions of her songs that I’ve heard so far pale in com­par­i­son to Court­ney live. This is stripped back, grungy rock with a coun­try, folky edge, those trade­mark stream of con­scious­ness lyrics car­ry­ing the songs along – paens to sub­ur­ban Mel­bourne life, ago­nies of love, but all retold with an edge of humour. Angsty, texts­peak poet­ry tells the sto­ries of her life so far. And she’s a mes­meris­ing per­former in her low-key tomboy style: torn shirt, messy lay­ered hair, no make­up, eyes closed, keep­ing a dis­tance from her audi­ence who stand mere inch­es away.

Court­ney leaves any form of con­ver­sa­tion till half way through the gig when she intro­duces new song Depre­ston. Do you have a ‘Pre­ston’ here in Eng­land too? she ask. Yes we reply, before answer­ing an amused ‘no’ to whether it is a place we’d like to hang out.

The short set ends with His­to­ry Eras­er from her EP How to Carve a Car­rot into a Rose. New dou­ble EP out now is A Sea of Split Peas from which comes her most talked-about num­ber, Avant Gar­den­er. Canned Toma­toes (whole) is my par­tic­u­lar favourite: a decep­tive, flu­id coun­try bal­lad which lulls you before break­ing into psy­che­del­ic mode. The song is also on 6‑track album I’ve Got a Friend called Emi­ly Fer­ris.

Court­ney is tour­ing the UK at venues here and there through May, book now, here’s a link

Ace Hotel, Shoreditch.

Ace HotelOur evening was sup­posed to com­mence with a drink in the hotel’s main bar, but my friends got lost. Actu­al­ly, they had walked straight past the hotel. That library or, er.… bicy­cle repair shop – yup – it’s actu­al­ly the hotel.

I returned on Sun­day to check it out, and loved the vibe of the invit­ing, cool­ly-designed, mul­ti-func­tion­al lob­by, with plen­ty of areas for relax­ing, read­ing news­pa­pers, or work­ing on lap­tops (this was orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to be a rea­son­ably-priced hotel for cre­atives before the area shot up in val­ue). A cof­fee shop at the front does small snacks, and at the rear is the main bar.

Ace coffee

Just to the left of the main entrance, you find the sep­a­rate door lead­ing down to the music venue. It’s a real­ly pleas­ant space, as big and airy as you can get for a base­ment venue, with sofas and low tables arranged around the edges. The bar is in the process of set­ting up to serve draught beers but for now it’s bot­tles only, we drank Cam­den Hell. Court­ney’s gig was a sell-out (the venue takes a max­i­mum of 235 peo­ple) yet the space nev­er felt crowd­ed. This is a fair­ly inti­mate venue and you can stand pret­ty close to the bands on the low stage. Ace Hotel has def­i­nite­ly found a place high on my “small venue” list.

Ace Hotel, 100 Shored­itch High Street, Lon­don E1.


WHO: Court­ney Bar­nett plus support
WHEN: Feb 13, 2014
WHERE: Ace Hotel, Shored­itch, London
TICKETS: £11 approx

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