Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile and their backing band The Sea Lice, found themselves onstage to a sold out crowd at the Palace Theatre last night. “I felt like we met half of you at dinner” said Courtney, Kurt nodding in agreement. Local radio stations have long adored both musicians and their solo efforts, and when the two announced a collaborative album this past June, It became one of the most anticipated independent albums of the year, coming from some of the leaders of the genre, who are now known well enough to be recognized in restaurants.
They began their show by running through most numbers off of their album Lotta Sea-Lice. Over Everything, Continental Breakfast, and Fear Is Like a Forest. As good as the songs are, they fall under the curse of being too recent, with most songs a little over a week old. The sold out crowd was enjoying the evening, but perhaps the songs weren’t old enough for fans to know the words to, and decipher where and when the crescendos of the songs are. It left some wondering, Will they play some of each others solo work?
The answer came about halfway through the show, When Courtney prefaced a song by saying it was about her hometown before beginning a more up-tempo version of Depreston, full of guitar fills from Kurt. When the song ended and the applause faded, Kurt mentioned to the crowd “That’s my favorite song.” For the next half hour, the two played through each other’s songs. Courtney playing and singing along to Life Like This and Pretty Pimpin while Kurt did the same for Dead Fox and later on in Avant Gardener. They dedicated their duet Blue Cheese to Bob Dylan, playing a show up the road at the Xcel that night. A laid back Untogether calmed the crowd, and relaxed the audience for an encore.
Coming onstage for their encore, fans were treated to the highlight of the evening with Courtney leading a incredible rendition of Gillian Welch’s Elvis Presley Blues, Sounding more like a classic folk singer, rather than the meandering lyrical rhymes and spitfire style of singing that she is more widely known for. Pretty Pimpin’ and Avant Gardener ended the evening after just a little over an hour onstage.
In an age of music where bands all too often try to do things “new” and “different”, adding in Fadd9SusMajor chords and catwalks and empty interpretations, it’s refreshing to see that two musicians, who write about real-estate ads and waking up unable to recognize yourself, can still sell out a theatre with the tried-and-true method of writing songs with two chords. Thats a part of the genius and the “instant classic” title given to Lotta Sea Lice. Simple songs that you can leave on repeat in your car, and tap your foot to.
Words and Photos by Casey Carlson