From New York to DC with Courtney Barnett and Her Tribe

By Baltimore-bred, Brooklyn-based author David Leigh Abts and Washington D.C -based writer Leslie Blodgett. Photos By Elizabeth A. Abts

DLA: When entering the backstage area of Webster Hall to hang out with Courtney Barnett, one is not sure what to expect. After her success at last year’s CMJ Music Marathon, she and her band are one of the most highly anticipated acts to be back in New York and part of this year’s action. To be honest what’s running through my mind is, These guys are going to be too cool for school. They’re going to think they are Zeus’s gift to Lesbos island and the straight villages alike. That couldn’t have been further from the truth.


LB: It was a similar vibe at the Black Cat in DC just a couple days earlier. They sold out the first night, but on round two, the count is down. To make sure the city hasn’t forgotten Courtney Barnett and the Courtney Barnetts overnight, she checks in with the audience. “How many of you have seen us before?” It’s a good response. “We’ve come from very far away,” she says. “It means a lot.”

DLA: I make my way to the band room. It’s about ten by ten. She comes to the door and greets every guest that enters with a warm introduction and a beer, with a warning that they are tall beers. Her being a size zero, I can see that a tall beer might be intimidating. Every American knows that Australians weigh 500 pounds and drink only big-ass Foster cans while seated around Steve Irwin’s grave, slamming leg after leg of barbecued crocodile meat and wondering: “Why was Our Nation’s Cherished Son taken from us?”

LB: Musicians always say, the better the crowd, the better the show, so DC whoops along to the Troubles refrain during “Anonymous Club.” Leave your shoes at the door along with your troubles your troubles your troubles your troubles. “Wooo!” So the band kicks it up another notch. She only pauses once, to adjust her shirt. It’s collared, white, and covered in sailboats. “Great shirt!” someone shouts. “Just what I was fishing for,” she laughs. Someone else, an Anna, announces it’s their birthday. Courtney raises a toast and dedicates her single “Avant Gardener” to the cause.

DLA: I chat with drummer Dave Mudie for a while and I get the sense that this band has deep respect for their surroundings, fellow artists, and the cities they tour in. On this tour they met San Fermin and Mikhael Paskalev (their co-conspirators on several bills this month) for the first time in Atlanta. “Lovely guys!” he says, adding that the hotel there had a great gym. Another tour highlight was seeing Mike Watt play to 200 people at the Black Cat’s smaller stage in DC. Later he writes to me from Montreal telling me the fire alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and everyone had to evacuate. “This was not a highlight,” he says.
courtney-barnett-01Photo: Backstage at the CMJ Music Marathon. Courtney Barnett, Dave Mudie, and bassist Bones Sloane are visited by their Immigrant Union roots: Brent DeBoer (Immigrant Union/The Dandy Warhols), Bob Harrow, and Peter Lubulwa.

LB: Toward the end of the set, guitarist Dan Luscombe says: “A minute ago I looked over and Ian MacKaye was standing there. I don’t know if he’s still here but it spooked me!” The nod to the DC music legend doesn’t go unappreciated.

DLA: I’m wondering whether it’s ok to smoke back here when someone says, “Who was hotter in a bathing suit, Nancy Reagan or Margaret Thatcher?” Everyone is laughing. I imagine what it would have been like hanging out backstage at a Sex Pistols concert in 1976, and I figure I’d be having an equally bizarre conversation, but that one would be fueled by heroin. Here in 2014, this tribe is fueled by tall beers.


Check out Courtney Barnett music and tour information at

This has been another Mother’s Day Orphan Production. Article by David Leigh Abts and Leslie Blodgett.

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