Courtney Barnett at Lee’s Palace

Australian indie rocker is all charm despite a quick rise to fame

COURTNEY BARNETT at Lee’s Palace on Saturday, October 26. Rating: NNNN

Before I write about Courtney Barnett’s charmingly ramshackle show at Lee’s Palace, first, an anecdote that encapsulates her meteoric rise to fame.

Five minutes before she’s scheduled to take the stage, Barnett’s at the crowded bar, elbowing her way to the front with a handful of drink tickets. The bartender informs her that she can’t use the tickets for her order, and sooner than she can pull out her wallet, a sweet-looking dude standing nearby asks to cover her bill, like it’s an honour being bestowed upon him. In just four months, she’s gone from playing the Silver Dollar to a sold-out show at Lee’s, without even having a proper debut album out.

She’s a full-fledged rock star now, and an unlikely one at that. She walks on with a too-cool-for-school gait (she actually did drop out of art school), tousled hair covering her face, and immediately rips into an hour-long set that’s much louder than her records. Backed by a full band – all equally into feedback, overdrive and freak outs – Barnett speak-sang in her classic dead-pan style that despite all the noise, still remained the core of each tune. The crowd went crazy during Avant Gardener – a song about gardening in a heat wave and ending up in the back of an ambulance – and swayed with their lighters alit during the slower jam, Anonymous Club.

Live in concert, Barnett’s songs seem less about the banalities of everyday life and more like a call to arms. That is, until you actually make out the words and realize she’s wailing about getting drunk and daydreaming about her crush. So rock star.

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