Written and Photographed by Casey Carlson
If you were one of the first few concert goers to escape the rain and enter First Avenue this past Wednesday, it wouldn’t have been hard for you to spot Courtney Barnett playing Ms Pacman off to the side of the steadily growing crowd. Courtney, along with a few band members and a couple of fans took turns at the machine before retreating backstage. It’s one of those cool-yet-obvious moments like those that remind you that people who travel the world, play concerts, give interviews and pose for pictures…..still like to do normal things, like play Ms Pacman with a few fans.
Perhaps it was the poetic normality of Courtney Barnett’s lyrics that drew Minnesotans to First Avenue for two nights,selling out both shows. Courtney’s songs capture the mundane and dreary parts of everyday life, as she sings about everything from cooking ramen, house-hunting, social anxiety, and a misunderstanding in an elevator. As basic as it sounds, the songs are catchy, and even landed her a Grammy nomination this past year for Best New Artist, which is anything but mundane.
For the second leg of her tour, Courtney brought along Nashville alt-rock group Bully which is fronted by Minnesota native Alicia Bognanno. “This is the first time we’ve played a venue two times in a row” she said during a break in the set, which consisted of the upbeat I Remember, Trying and the bass heavy Trash. The half hour set flew by quickly but left a great impression on the concert-goers. Many CD’s and Vinyl records of their latest release Feels Like could be seen in the audience.
Courtney was no stranger to Minnesota either. She had played Rock the Garden this past June at the Walker Art Center, But this was her first time playing a stretch of shows at First Avenue. She opened her set with Dead Fox and Debbie Downer, a few tunes off her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Each song consisted of its own projection playing behind the band, ranging from psychedelic patterns to cartoons. The band itself was unique, especially with the absence of a fourth member. During the concert, there is no pedal steel on Depreston or an organ on Elevator Operator. Instead Courtney brings only the essentials, Dave Mudie on drums and Bones Sloane on bass. Even without a fourth member, The band still sounded complete, and left enough room to let Courtney shred her way through a few solos.The three of them danced, pounded and sang through the evenings numbers, ranging from Courtney’s Latest single Three Packs a Day all the way to “An oldie” Avant Gardener as her encore number.