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Image for Milk! Records Showcase – Howler, Melbourne 5/03/16Courtney Barnett plays Taronga Zoo in Sydney, January 2016 / Photo: Maria Boyadgis

Milk! Records Showcase – Howler, Melbourne 5/03/16

Written by Kirsten Maree on March 7, 2016

If I didn’t already know Courtney Barnett to be a polarising artist, my mates’ reactions to my invitations to come along to the Milk! Records showcase at Howler made it abundantly clear, with one proclaiming “OMG YAAASS!” and another likening the Aussie singer-songwriter to some of history’s most notorious dictators and asking me to promise I’d throw my shoe at the stage. To be clear, I refrained.

For the most part I’ve fallen somewhere between the two camps, keeping fairly Switzerland in my opinion that while her musical style isn’t really my thing, she slays it live and is brilliant at what she does. So yeah, I think she’s awesome – if you like that sort of thing. What surprised me is that last night’s gig really had me liking that sort of thing.

The Milk! Records crew is to Courtney Barnett what the Squad is to Taylor Swift – carefully selected, like minded and (mostly) talented individuals hand picked by their leader to raise their profiles, kiss each other’s faces and hang out in Brunswick coffee shops. And why not? Courtney’s star is rising, having won 4 ARIAS last year and gracing the latest Grammy awards, up for the Best New Artist gong (which subsequently went to the grating Meghan Trainor, who seems hell bent on  single handedly regressing the women’s movement 50 years, but I digress).

The Milk! Records roster is a small crew of artists Courtney and co-founder/GF like listening to and hanging out with, and Good For You at Howler last night like a window into what these guys do every Saturday night with a few spot lights and a march stand thrown in for good measure. Just mates playing shit they like and very much enjoying each other.

The line up boasted all but two of the label’s acts, kicking off with The Finks, sporting Jen Cloher on the bass, the double drums expertly executed by Dave & Sholaki of the East Brunswick All Girls’ Choir, Ouch My Face who to be honest kinda did hurt my face, Jen Cloher flanked by Fraser A Gorman and Courtney Barnett, Fraser A Gorman flanked by Courtney Barnett and of course, Courtney Barnett flanked by no one and everyone. D’ya get that?

And that was what was maybe the coolest thing about this tour, is that each performance is a collaborative effort by the Milk! family. You can’t get away with going to see your one favourite act, and to be honest you would be doing yourself a disservice if you did, because at any given time any one of the artists could grace the stage, showing off their musicianship in a myriad of ways.

It’s no surprise highlights came straight from the Good For You album, with Moonlighting, Red Wine Lipstick and Famously Monogamous providing memorable moments, though none more so than the group effort that was Stone Age Brain.

But it was the shows penultimate act that left the greatest impression on this Melbourne crowd, rivalled only perhaps by Lady Barnett of course. Fraser A Gorman wasn’t just confident and hilarious and perhaps a little hammered, but his set quite gorgeous. His tracks more traditional in a sense, where the melodies washed over you rather than shouted at you, transfixing us to his version of Barnett deadpan.

Until now it has been my opinion that Courtney was the only one to really nail this balance of IDGAF and true feels, but to Gorman it came just as easily. With a little country influence in their to boot, the guys a story teller, as evident in near Dylan-esque Shiny Gun and my new fave, Skyscraper Skyline Blues.

Courtney of course closed out the night, her larger than life performance nearly tearing the roof off the little venue. She’s an artist that hasn’t only grown in recognition, but in performance and delivery as well. While she was perfectly at home on the small stage, watching her here seemed like a rare treat, like we’d won tickets to an intimate show for only a special few. And at 20 bucks a pop that’s not far from the truth, the collaborative Bowie cover alone worth every cent.

It’s a night you’ll love if you love Courtney Barnett, and hate if you don’t. Either way, keep your shoes on because none of these artists really give a fuck as long as they are playing what they want to play. But buy their merch, yeah?

The Milk! Records showcase tour continues this weekend, grab all the dates and ticket links below.

Thursday, 10th March
UC Live, Canberra
Tickets: Milk! Records

Friday, 11th March
Anita’s, Wollongong
Tickets: Milk! Records

Saturday, 12th March
Vic On The Park, Sydney
Tickets: Milk! Records

Sunday, 13th March
Bar On The Hill, Newcastle
Tickets: Milk! Records

Thursday, 17th March
Bangalow Hill, Bangalow
Tickets: Milk! Records

Friday, 18th March
The Triffid, Brisbane
Tickets: Milk! Records

Saturday, 19th March
Joe’s Waterhole, Eumundi
Tickets: Milk! Records

Sunday, 20th March
Miami Marketta, Gold Coast
Tickets: Milk! Records

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