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Review Sun Aug 03 2014
Schubas was packed to the brim on Wednesday evening, the first of official Lollapalooza aftershows, which led Courtney Barnett and Varsity to lend their talents to a wide-eyed audience, hungry for musical consumption, for performances that would not be forgotten.
Varsity emerged to kick the evening off with their fuzzy yet indulgent garage rock tunes. Energized and upbeat, the crowd moved and delighted in the musical offering that they brought to the table. Take a listen for yourself to their Soundcloud page, where you can purchase their music by naming your price. Their lead singer has a powerhouse voice reminiscent of Tennis, with perfect intonation amidst a blazing backdrop of sound. Playing songs off of their Thanks For Nothing EP, Varsity was able to warm up the crowd and showcase their emerging tunes for an eager audience.
The venue gradually filled and filled to capacity, until Courtney Barnett stepped onstage, wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans as fans in the audience awaited her musical genius to be on display before their eyes.
"This gig is much better," Barnett stated bluntly as she grinned, comparing the wall-to-wall packed Schubas setting to the outdoor landscape at Lollapalooza, where she played this past weekend. She could not be more accurate. As I stood in that space listening to music from her debut album, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, Barnett's intimate storytelling is much better suited to a venue that is equally personal. As she jammed out or lulled the crowd to a hush with her mesmerizing electric guitar and vocal combinations, the intimacy with which Barnett approaches her performance lends an intimacy that can only be gathered by close connections.
Her music is gritty and upfront, but in a way that welcomes you in. She frequently engaged in comical banter with the audience, along with her guitarist, who told hilarious anecdotes such as telling the crowd about how the US has so many more television channels than Australia, and that they were able to watch Me, Myself & Irene that afternoon (a work of cinematic genius, no doubt). Barnett also called out couples in the audience who were there on dates, and told them they might not like the next song, as she played some of her lovelorn, hard-hitting tunes. Her charm lent itself to the performance, as she was able to move from a power-infused jam session to comedic banter, and back again.
She played a variety of hits, including "Ode to Odetta," "History Eraser," and "Avant Gardener." My favorite moments of the set occurred when she would stray from the recorded material and engage in lengthy jam sessions, filling Schubas with reverberating, pulsating sounds that reached to the corners of the space and engulfed the audience in another world of authentic sounds. Another shining moment occurred when she performed "Are You Looking After Yourself," which really illuminates her persona and beliefs in one ballad.
I don't need no 9 to 5 / Telling me that I'm alive. She crooned these words as she eschewed traditional societal beliefs and delved into discussing what the world believes one should be doing with their time. Are you eating / You sound so thin. She continues on as her voice drones out with the word thin, dropping the sound with a low guitar backing and all of the audience's watchful eyes on her, awaiting her next move. Barnett was able to completely captivate her audience by delving into her visionary material and keeping her devoted fans connected to her pure artistry. I don't think there was a better way to begin Lollapalooza weekend, and for all those who saw her on Saturday, I highly recommend a show at an indoor venue the second you have a chance.