LIVE REVIEW: Courtney Barnett + Tony Molina @ The Fillmore, SF 10/21/15
October is always a busy time for the Bay Area, but this year’s scheduling overlaps have been putting us through the wringer. The legendary Roots crew and the virtuosic Emily Wells were also playing in San Francisco Wednesday night (unfortunately not together), but we were in the mood for something janglier.
The floor of The Fillmore was already nearly full for Tony Molina’s set. The band looked like early Foo Fighters and sounded like mid-period Weezer, but they played diligently and won the battle against crowd conversations by a hair. It also helps that Molina’s new album is a bunch of 1-2 minute songs, so none of them wore out their welcome.
When Courtney Barnett played Bottlerock, she had to contend with a sea of bored looking Cage the Elephant fans. This was not the case at The Fillmore, as all eyes were on her the second she and her bandmates entered. Bass player/backup singer Bones Sloane was positioned downstage left, drummer Dave Mudie was upstage center, and Barnett had all of stage right to herself. Apart from their dexterous arms and hands, the CB3 didn’t move much and didn’t have to. From swanky opener “Avant Gardener” forward, the trio locked in and doled out a hearty stew of blues & punk-inflected anthems.
Performing ninety percent of the marvelous Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit along with a new version of “Boxing Day Blues,” CB3 made one hell of a racket. During instrumental passages Barnett threw herself around the floor, conjuring up images of Angela Chase triumphantly dancing to “Blister in the Sun” in her bedroom. Whether folded into a crouch for face-melting guitar solos or wrapping her snarled lips around her mic when delivering cranky observations, Barnett’s stage presence was inviting and intimate. It was abundantly clear why so many people have latched onto her so quickly.
The only nitpicking criticism we have is that the set was so high energy that the brightness creeped into moments that should have been more solemn. It felt strange to be smiling and bobbing through the gloom-tacular “Kim’s Caravan” and weepy masterpiece “Depreston.” The crowd sing-along during the latter’s closing refrain was magic though, as was audience participation during “Pedestrian At Best” (low-key one of the best alt rap songs of the year) and unofficial theme song “Nobody Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party.” With trippy video projections complementing an impeccable setlist, CB makes a strong case for going out even when you wanna stay home.