Review: The Salt Shed Hits a New High with Courtney Barnett’s Here and There Festival

The past couple of weeks the Salt Shed has been hitting on all cylinders. They attracted a phenomenal lineup of acts for their first month of shows and have been filling out their grounds with great food, shops, and more. They've felt like a miniature festival every night and this past Tuesday they welcomed the Courtney Barnett curated touring festival Here and There to take the feeling even further. They truly hit a sweet spot with The Beths and Alvvays joining Barnett on the bill for another amazing notch in the Salt Shed's already impressive belt.

The Beths - Photo by Julian Ramirez

The Beths opened up the show with a stirring set. Their sound is already fun and poppy, so I expected to have a great time. They did not disappoint as the New Zealand foursome played beneath an inflatable arc of birds much to the joy of the bopping crowd. "Dying to Believe" took the first spot of the night and primed the crowd quite well. Elizabeth Stokes seemed much more confidant than past shows in town, really leading the band through a fun setlist. They certainly saved the past for last with a three-song run that had the crowd at their most dancey and engaged with "Little Death," "Future Me Hates Me," and "Expert in a Dying Field." It was the exact start the Here and There Chicago stop needed.

The energy that had been quickly built up from the Beths transferred exquisitely over to Alvvays, who were welcomed by the undeniable smell of weed emanating from the crowd. Seriously within seconds of the stage screen turning to a having Alvvays flag the diehard fans lit up and made sure they were ready for the set. The Toronto, Ontario, based band, led by Molly Rankin, came to the stage with smiles on their faces as the crowd roared. "Many Mirrors," a new song from the band's forthcoming album Blue Rev, kicked off the lengthy set.

Alvvays - Photo by Julian Ramirez

The crowd was in the palm of Alvvays' hands from the get go. Nearly every song was met with an uproarious reception. Older songs like "One Who Love You" and Adult Diversion" got the loudest pops, but even the newest tracks seemed to have a hefty anticipation in the crowd about hearing them live. Rankin made sure to show her appreciation of the crowd throughout set. Rankin took time to ask the Bulls fans to take care of DeMar DeRozen for her (alluding to his career start as a Toronto Raptor) and shouted out the great Salt Shed staff. Alvvays seemed to be completely ocverjoyed with their time on stage, letting that dreamy pop sound of their engulf the open air venue. While most bands would end their sets with a familiar track, Alvvays and their fans are seemingly about the present and future as Rankin and crew finished with another new track "Easy on Your Own", leaving the hot crowd with a another taste of what's to come.

Courtney Barnett - Photo by Julian Ramirez

The sun had mostly set by the time Courtney Barnett and her steadfast bandmates Bones Sloane and Dave Mudie came to the stage. The temps may have dropped, but the crowd was as hot as ever, cheering at their loudest for the Australian shredder. She began her set with the newer track "Rae Street" before slipping into a comfortable favorite in "Avant Gardner". The latter's opening drums that slip into the hazy guitars is undeniable and sent the crowd into a tizzy. Barnett's dry lyricism and singing style is at it's most direct ion this story of an asthma attack brought on by gardening. "It a Monday, so mundane" she sings, underlining just simple her songs can be yet deliver way more that the sum of their parts.

Barnett's set continued with familiar tracks like "Nameless Faceless" and "Small Poppies" a personal favorite of mine. " I used to hate myself but now I think I'm alright" is one of those lines that demands to be yelled out at the top of your lungs. Barnett and a large contingent of the crowd obliged, blasting the cathartic lyrics from "Small Poppies" into the stratosphere over and over again. The crowd was intimately familiar with Barnett's songs with one impassioned member of the crowd crying out "I love that song" after "Depreston". Barnett heard her loud and clear, pointing at her and saying "That's your favorite song? Well that one was for you!"

The rest of the set traded off between fan favorites and new songs that are surely growing on the crowd. It's hard not to just lose your self to to the intensity of " Elevator Operator" as Barnett's Voice soars over the crowd as she shifts between the song's overwhelmed working professional and suicidal older woman. "Don't jump little boy, don't jump off that roof!" she belts out to the excited crowd. Later on in the set as the night was winding down a trio of slacker anthems graced Salt Shed as Barnett drew a line from "History Eraser" to "Pedestrian at Best" to "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party". All three songs exude the best attributes of Barnett's work: amazing guitar work, lackadaisical but somehow sharp POVs, and a catchiness that gets stuck in your head. While "History Eraser" details a blurry night out where everyone's enjoying the time, "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party" is an ode to the homebody who just can't put the effort into actually going out. Having those two tracks sandwich "Pedestrian at Best", which sees Barnett at her angriest as she pushes against the expectations put on her after her rise to fame, feels totally inspired. It's a sensation that permeated her entire set.

Courtney Barnett closed out the Chicago stop of the Here and There festival with "Before You Gotta Go", a loving post argument song that beckons for reconciliation. "Before you gotta go, go, go, go / I wanted you to know, know, know, know / You're always on my mind" goes the chorus to the perfect last song of the night. It was the tender farewell the guitar shredding heavy night needed to end on. The Slat Shed definitely set the bar just a bit higher with this enthralling show.

All photos by Julian Ramirez

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Julian Ramirez