Yes, this Courtney Barnett show on Saturday night at Club Dada is sold out, but some of you can and probably will find a way to get in if you so desire. Finesse. Finaggle. Bribe. Barter. Craigslist. Stub Hub. It’s the call of the desperate and if you don’t have a way in by way of ticket or guest list then you need to do one of the above. It’s what’s best for your mental health. You don’t want to miss this show.
But if you can’t get in so what, right? There’s a long line of even bigger-name acts playing the same night. The Rolling Stones are playing at Darth Vader’s AT&T Stadium. Tim McGraw is playing at Gexa Energy Pavilion. Bowling for Soup is playing at the House of Blues. Weezer is playing at Winstar Casino in Oklahoma.
All of those acts are legendary in their own right. The Rolling Stones because...wait, we don’t have to explain why the Rolling Stones are a legendary band. Tim McGraw is easily one of the most important country artists in the last 30 years and worth seeing at least one time if you’re a country fan. Bowling for Soup stakes their claim as one of the Denton bands that broke out and they’re sure to make you relieve some teenage angst. Speaking of teenage angst: Weezer. Not sure there’s ever been a band that’s had such a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on with their career, but all of their sins carried out in this lifetime are washed away with both the Blue and Green Albums and Pinkerton.
But you know what? Screw all of these bands, man. Seriously. Courtney Barnett is the most important thing happening in Dallas on Saturday, June 6, and I don’t care if your kids are born in that 24-hour span of time. This is what matters. She is what matters. How dare the Rolling Stones book a concert the same day as her!
Courtney Barnett, if you aren’t familiar, Patrick Star, is a garage rock artist from Melbourne, Australia. Her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, was released in March to much critical acclaim. It received an A- from the A.V. Club, an 8.6 from Pitchfork, four and a half stars from Rolling Stone and an 8/10 from Arctic Monkeys fanzine, NME.
These scores are warranted; as of this summer, without a doubt, Barnett has released the best rock album of 2015. Her strongest attribute is her keen and sarcastic, yet honest voice. Barnett’s lyrics are some of the wittiest you’ll come across in contemporary rock music. We could all benefit from her summer reading list. The best part is that it’s all offhand and casual — you can sense her smirking devilishly as she finally got her lines in perfect shape.
Consider this choice lyric from “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party:” "You say 'You sleep when you're dead,'/I'm scared I'll die in my sleep/I guess that's not a bad way to go." The densest James Joyce it isn’t, but Barnett takes the mundane and sometimes the trite and is brilliant enough to grind it to its most finite state and add her own bit of commentary. There’s the tender line from “Dead Fox” that’s sadly sweet enough to make its way on photographs of the ocean reblogged on Tumblr: “We all think that we are nobody/But everybody is somebody else’s somebody.”
Barnett shines at making things that seem so simple appear elegant. She’s the pizza chef with the out-of-the-box concoction or the first person to have ever gotten the bright idea to slap duck confit on poutine, which is Canada’s nachos.
Also consider the very first lyrics I ever heard by Barnett, in the summer of 2012 while randomly cruising through Bandcamp: “I masturbated to the songs you wrote/Resuscitated all of my hopes/It felt wrong but it didn't take too long/Much appreciated are your songs.” Those lyrics are funny and honest and witty as all hell. There’s an avalanche of smart shit Barnett has said in her songs, some of them much better than those examples, but they are the most accurate representation of her cognizant millennial ennui, fascination with the mundane, and ability to be clever and hilarious. An adequate comparison to her songwriting ability is none other than Alex Turner, the front man of the Arctic Monkeys who once referred to the spouses of his shitty band mates as “proof that love's not only blind but deaf.”
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Rest assured, though, Barnett isn’t all about just the lyrics. She knows how to absolutely shred on a guitar. Barnett’s guitar playing is a melodic bolt of rock 'n' roll. Don’t be surprised at a three-to-five-minute instrumental session in which Barnett sings through chords and riffs. It’s all a little dirty but well polished enough to make you sit in awe at one of the most gifted musicians in modern music.
This all seems like a love letter, and maybe it is. I’ll be seeing Barnett live for the third time since November come Saturday, but I’ll be there because I know time and time again she puts on a great show and that she’s one of the best rock stars out today. Which brings us back to the Rolling Stones, Weezer, et all. Would you rather see Kobe Bryant or Steph Curry in their prime or see Jordan as a Wizard? Would you rather see LL Cool J right now or see Chance the Rapper? Somebody puts a gun to your head and says, “Watch one of these brand new movies you know nothing about by these directors: Woody Allen or Wes Anderson. What’s it gonna be?”
If you’re smart I know the answer. If you’re smart you take in art because of the experience not for bragging rights. Besides, bragging rights is seeing someone in their prime and saying you did 20 years down the line. Dear Lord, how dare the Rolling Stones book a show the same night as Courtney Barnett?