Courtney Barnett played the El Rey for the 4th night of Red Bull’s Sound Select #30DaysInLA series. After getting loads of Red Bull swag, munching on empanadas, and getting strung out on vodka Red Bulls (THERE WAS SO MUCH RED BULL) I bumped into fellow Grimy Goods contributor Mark Ortega. Below we discuss the shows highlights, varying giveaways, openers, closers and Courtney Barnett’s performer resemblance to Girl Cobain.
ZB: I only bumped into you a bit later in the night. How was it your first half? Did you get there in time to swag a screen-printed Courtney Barnett poster?
MO: No! I thought those were just for people that won them via the scratchers? I got one of the #30DaysInLA posters though — No. 2 in my collection.
ZB: What did you win on your scratcher?
MO: Red Bull Sound Select custom earplugs.
ZB: Like everyone else I guess. I heard someone in line behind me won a tote bag.
MO: There were a lot of people there early thanks to Red Bull. Free empanadas, free Red Bull vodkas. It’s a nice thing they are doing to get people in the building before the openers go on. PHOX seemed overwhelmed by how many people were there when they went on at 9ish.
ZB: For real. The frontwoman seemed on a high (and a buzz) from their television debut hours earlier on Conon O’Brian
How did you like her stage banter? I thought it was funny and cool but I heard some haters complaining she talked too much.
MO: I thought it was funny and didn’t feel like it was too much. Always good to see there are relatable people on stage rather than just people phoning in set. They seemed really appreciative and stoked to be on the rise.
ZB: I thought her voice was really great. It seems to me like they are filling the void left by Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear; that like autumnal-folk-woodsy music.
MO: Yeah, I heard a cross between Camera Obscura and Imogen Heap.
ZB: I could definitely hear Imogen in her high register.
Did you see those San Fermin branded leather keychains those were pretty dope! What did you think of San Fermin’s set?
MO: I liked most of what I heard from them. The trumpet player (who looked like Sawyer from LOST) was badass, as was the violinist / backup vocalist. It was hard to hear some of the lead vocals at times.
ZB: I counted like eight people up there. They had awesome energy. The back and forth between the male and female vocalists was interesting too. But, it didn’t work every time for me.
I just can’t put my finger on what it was they were missing though. They have great sound (especially from the saxophones and trumpets) but something isn’t catching me.
MO: Yep, there were eight people up there. The lead male vocalist reminded me of “Just Like Honey” from Jesus & Mary Chain at times. I remember you mentioned he sounded like [Matt Berninger of] The National. But I didn’t really hear any hooks. I didn’t feel hooked by any of their melodies.
ZB: They have so much going on onstage though, it is difficult to organize it cohesively. I’m sure it’ll be great when they find that winning formula. The energy is definitely there.
What did you think of Courtney Barnett’s energy? You kept mentioning the Girl Cobain similarities.
MO: Left-handed guitar. Flannel. But that wasn’t all. It felt like it was Nirvana caught between their grungy stuff and their Unplugged stuff — perhaps the kind of thing they would have worked on had history not played out the way it did.
The guitar in “History Eraser” sounded very much like “About a Girl” to me.
ZB: Quick aside, did you hear that “mixtape” from Cobain that surfaced earlier this week?
MO: I haven’t heard it, not yet. But I plan on it. I was one of those that bought the Kurt Cobain private journals that were released years ago (though I feel like a douchebag for that now).
ZB: You aren’t missing much on that mixtape. It’s just a crazy collage of cartoon samples and noise. Not much to really grasp on to, in my opinion.
MO: Some of the early, early Nirvana was just a crazy collage of noise.
ZB: Fair say. But yes, I definitely see the Cobain vibe from Ms. Barnett. She has mentioned several times that Nirvana was one of her favorite bands.
I was most impressed with how far she has come performance-wise. The last time I saw her was at Coachella and she was awesome then, but now she fucking shreds!
When she really hits her stride it feels like a buzz. Her music, her languid stage presence, it all feels like alcohol seeping into your blood, like my arteries were clogging with rock. She also seems to have enlisted a second guitarist and he really extenuated the melodies in a live setting.
MO: I missed her at Coachella (which I’m sad about) but yeah, her sound was very full. I’d really only seen some of those solo sets she’s done (Tiny Desk, etc) online so I was taken aback.
ZB: She gave us some of that Tiny Desk intimacy at the end of her set when she performed that new song. I think she said it was called “Preston”?
MO: “Depreston!” I liked that one a lot. It was very “cheeky” as Brits might say. And yes I’m aware she’s not a Brit.
ZB: It reminded me so much of Bright Eyes. Which is awesome because, as our readers may know, I am a devote Conor Oberst acolyte.
MO: It was awesome. Almost good enough that I was almost not mad about the parking ticket on my car afterwards.
ZB: NO! There was free parking!
MO: I couldn’t find it! Third parking ticket in 2 weeks.
ZB: LA man, LA.
Courtney Barnett – “Avant Gardener”