“As you grow, you change and your music changes.”
The touring music festival is a timeless tradition that has roots in American culture’s development over the past century. Back in the 1920s, large groups of entertainers would barnstorm around parts of the United States performing various tricks, stunts, and songs to audiences who were looking to have some fun.
These days, the theatrics have gone by the wayside, but there are still large groups of solo acts and bands hitting the road together for a run of shows. Australian indie rock dynamo Courtney Barnett has curated one of her own, the Here and There Festival, and it will stop at MASS MoCA in North Adams on August 13 with Lucy Dacus, Men I Trust, Faye Webster, Bartees Strange, the Beths, and Hana Vu rounding out the bill. Barnett will also come back around these parts to play the House Of Blues on Lansdowne Street on September 12 with Austin rock act We Don’t Ride Llamas opening up.
We spoke ahead of the festival and the show about having prior curating experience, the team helping her out, making her latest album, and working on some low-key projects.
What inspired you to curate the traveling Here and There Festival? Was it just you wanting to hit the road with some friends or is there a deeper meaning to it?
I curated a festival a couple years ago called Sonic City and I just found it so fun, it was such a joy to curate and watch it come together. I had this idea in the back of my head and it seemed like a bit of a pipe dream but then it slowly became reality. It’s been really fun picking a bunch of bands and musicians I love, it’ll be fun to see everybody play.
I can see why, you definitely have a great bill. When it comes to putting together something like this, did it get stressful at all for you? Did you fill out the lineup, handle all of the logistics and everything by yourself? Or did you have people helping you out?
I got a really great team of people helping and I haven’t done much of the logistics. All of the organizing was just booking around people’s touring schedules and seeing who was available when. It’s always a bit of a puzzle but it’s not too stressful and I think that’s what touring is like in general, it’s all over the place.
There’s also trying to line things up when everything’s all over the place.
Last fall you released your third album, Things Take Time, Take Time and when it comes to a lot of bands and musicians their third release usually marks the creative apex of their artistic foundation while incorporating hints of ideas to be used in the future. Do you view the album with that perspective or do you see it as something else?
I think every album has some sort of personality shift, it seems only normal. As you grow, you change and your music changes. It’s my third album, but I’ve done a couple other ones in between with EPs and other kinds of stuff. Every album is a document of the time that represents that moment in time so it’s interesting for me to see what comes out of it and see how different it is.
Dealing with COVID-19 in Australia, was it different for you than your friends in America and other parts of the world because of how things were going where you were during the pandemic?
It was really different. Australia, Melbourne especially, was in lockdown for quite a long time and it went on and off for like a year-and-a-half it seems. It was quite a quiet place to be and compared to America it was different I guess. We didn’t have as many cases but it was a very solitary time which I think the album reflects. I mean, I kind of wanted it to sound like I was in my flat singing to whoever was listening on the CD player because that’s where I spent most of my time, just alone in this little flat looking out the window.
I totally get that vibe. When it comes to the structure and the presentation of the Here and There Festival, what can people expect when it comes to MASS MoCA on August 13? Do you plan on presenting it in a revue style? Or will it be just one performer after the other?
I think it’s going to be pretty classic. Everyone will have their own set but I guess I’m not sure. It’s the first year with some artists I know, some artists I’m friends with and some I’m just a really big fan of and I think would be really fun to have some kind of collaboration and maybe do some stuff together but I’m just not sure yet. I’m sure there will be some nice surprises.
After this traveling festival concludes along with the upcoming show in Boston, what’s next for you for the rest of the year? Do you plan on heading back into the studio or pursuing any collaborations?
I have a bit of time so I’ll probably get some work done in the studio. I got a couple low-key projects so I’ll probably get to work on them and then do some more touring later in the year. There’s nothing big to announce.
Courtney Barnett at House of Blues
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.