Courtney Barnett’s infectious energy

Courtney Barnett came to her livestreamed debut Austin City Limits taping after a couple of years of relentless hard work. “This is a lady that has paid her dues in the local Melbourne music scene and fully deserves to be where she is right now,” noted Darin Brown in the YouTube comments. “She and the other two guys are only going in one direction and that is up!!!” The Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist broke out of her country on the strength of a pair of EPs, collected as the album A Sea of Split Peas, hitting the States via festival shows, including noteworthy sets at 2014’s Fun Fun Fun Fest and Coachella. This year Barnett not only released the critically-acclaimed, Billboard Top 20 LP Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, but was a ubiquitous presence at SXSW. She arrived at the Moody during a U.S. tour that’s seen sellouts, and with infectious, unpretentious energy.

Opener “Elevator Operator,” from Sometimes, was a good introduction to her basic style: straightforward, unfancy guitar rock, vibrant but not aggressive, with conversational vocals and an observational lyrical style. Aided by her tight band featuring bassist Bones Sloane and drummer Dave Mudie, she stretched out within her framework, adding variety to her performance while remaining consistent in sound. The trio ranged from the garage-rocking “Canned Tomatoes” and  melancholy balladry of “An Illustration of Loneliness” to the lovely folk rocking “Depreston” and the power popping “Dead Fox.” She earned special kudos from the eager audience with “Small Poppies” and “Avant Gardener,” both featuring rambling lyrics that move from mundane observation to philosophical contemplation – a Barnett specialty. She brought the main set to a crashing close with the single “Pedestrian at Best,” to the audience’s delight.

Barnett returned to the stage solo for a ragged but right cover of “Heavy Heart,” from the catalog of Australian rock stars You Am I. Her rhythm section rejoined her for “History Eraser,” a bashing fan favorite that (d)evolved into a perfectly sloppy Big Rawk Ending. “It’s nice catching her at these small venues now,” commented themadbatter, “because she’s blowing up.” We’re happy to help her with that explosion, and we can’t wait for you to see this episode when it airs as part of our 41st season this fall on PBS.