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BERKELEY'S NEWS • JANUARY 17, 2023

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Courtney Barnett’s Here And There Festival showers Stanford with balmy bliss

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Senior Staff

SEPTEMBER 01, 2022

As Friday melted into an orange horizon, UC Berkeley students took to the corkscrewed highway to attend Courtney Barnett’s Here And There Festival at Stanford.

Air light with jubilee and serenity, Frost Amphitheater — the Greek Theatre in a different font — shimmered like an opal. Bubbles floated overhead, blankets unfolded and breezes fluttered over the grassy theater’s welcoming ataraxy. It glimmered with summery bliss, a lingering warm touch before the arrival of autumn’s chill.

Stunning with performers Julia Jacklin, Chicano Batman, Japanese Breakfast and Barnett herself, the national touring festival sparked indie-alternative delight within the scenic venue. It dribbled with the sweetness of ripe persimmons, representative of the short-lived radiance of summer.

With fleetingness reflected in its title, Here And There drifted to Frost Amphitheater with a gentle gravitation, a transient gossamer sprawled across grass before being lifted away by evening’s zephyr. As late afternoon simmered into dusky twilight, the rosy skyline rendered a halcyon backdrop to the festival’s felicity.

Even as it faded into the blue of windless night, Barnett’s festival felt like a summer kiss goodbye.

— Taila Lee, arts & entertainment editor

Julia Jacklin

Cloaked in a vibrant red silk prairie dress and the spun-gold saturation of late afternoon sunlight, Julia Jacklin bloomed onstage, opening the festival in an act of radiance. Mere hours after the release of her third album Pre Pleasure, Jacklin appeared in front of a slowly growing crowd, strumming a mustard yellow electric guitar and swaying in the subtle breeze.

The Australian artist was casual, carefree and lilted. Poised against her own name capitalized on a bright blue backdrop, she relied on little other than the brilliance of her voice and lyrics to shape her performance.

photo of julia jacklin
Taila Lee/Senior Staff

Her six-song set showcased the range of her discography — the solemnity of songs like “Body” and the soothing nature of “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” balanced perfectly against the upbeat, guitar-bright “Pressure to Party.” Equal measures placid and passionate, Jacklin set the festival’s tone with unaffected aplomb.

During “Lydia Wears a Cross” Jacklin gently swayed into the microphone as she sang, the echo of her voice in the resounding amphitheater a tender worship inconsistent with the message of the song. Even as she disavowed religion, she herself was a deity, her piercing lyrics settling over the crowd like a prayer, the somber synth her holy chorus.

True to its name, “I Was Neon” further brightened the technicolor of her performance. “I swear I could feel it,” she insisted as she hit a tambourine against her palm, her entire body moving to the guitar’s steady swell. Indeed, the unnamed feeling spread through the crowd, setting her performance aglow.

Jacklin’s most striking moment came at the end of her set with “Pressure to Party.” Released in 2019 as a single for her second album Crushing, the jaunty breakup anthem left her belting a soaring goodbye before exiting the stage, her joviality setting a high bar for the performances to come.

— Vivian Stacy

Chicano Batman

Sandwiched between the soft indie girls was an explosion of funk and psychedelic soul as Chicano Batman’s vibrant set filled the auditorium with piquancy. From the moment the band stepped out to their high-spirited, luminous “Dark Star,” the festival was set ablaze.

photo of chicano batman
Taila Lee/Senior Staff

“Take a trip along with us,” lead singer Bardo Martinez sang during “Magma.” With catchy bass lines and captivating guitar riffs long enough to let the audience coast along, Chicano Batman’s music is indeed akin to a psychedelic trip. Its soulful sound was magnified by its look, each member of the band donning a pair of dark sunglasses reminiscent of 1950s jazz performers. Between a midnight blue open suit, rocker jeans and even a wide-brim fedora hat, their clothes celebrated an eclectic range of musical genres.

Indeed, as evidenced by their diversity in dress, Chicano Batman cannot be confined to a single genre; rather, it blends smooth jazz with loose tropical Latin music, psychedelic rock and ’70s blues. Formed in 2008, the band’s sound contains a richness that seems plucked straight from any number of musical or cultural time periods.

Bassist Eduardo Arenas took to the spotlight for “La Manzanita,” a Latin-infused tale of a time when Arenas tried to give an apple to a toothless woman, sung entirely in Spanish. The set was filled with “Moments of Joy” such as this, so acute that the audience could not help but dance along. Standouts included “Invisible People,” a dreamy, synth-heavy song with political undertones, and “Polymetronomic Harmony,” a fast-paced song electrified with intensity that ended in a finale of pulsing lights and Martinez wailing on his knees. 

“Here and there! There, here, everywhere, it’s all the same baby! We come from the same elements on this earth!” Martinez said passionately at one point in the show, his free-spirited words rounding out the hippie vibe suggested by his psychedelic guitar. “We’re all breathing the same air, you know what I mean?”

In a triumph true to the lucid lyricism of “Color My Life,” Chicano Batman departed the stage, washing the stadium in kaleidoscopic color. 

— Vivian Stacy

Japanese Breakfast

As the sun sank like a persimmon falling from a tree, Japanese Breakfast was determined to squeeze out every last drop of daylight. The ebullient hum of “Paprika” filled Frost Amphitheater, and, to swelling cheers, the members of Japanese Breakfast stepped out underneath the stage’s yellow-orange hues.

With a microphone in one hand and a mallet in the other, frontwoman Michelle Zauner struck her gong and bounced across stage, shining with buoyant, fluorescent fervor. Her melodrama was always accompanied by tenderness, her furrowed brow followed by a beaming smile. Beside her beloved band, Zauner’s gravitational force thrummed as exquisitely ecstatic, insistent.

photo of japanese breakfast
Taila Lee/Senior Staff

As the evening grew darker, Japanese Breakfast only glowed brighter; Zauner zipped around the stage like a firefly. The band meandered through the misty dreamland of “Road Head” before taking a turnpike exit into the enveloping anguish of “Boyish” and “The Body Is a Blade.”

Smoothly transitioning to more recent releases, the band grew dramatically distant in “Glider.” Hypnotic pinwheel blades of light illuminated Zauner’s face in amber segments, and a scintillating synth sailed across the amphitheater before fading into the sweeping anxiety of “Posing in Bondage.” Paired well with their ominous yet enchanting styles, the back-to-back songs were transcendent live; they yearned and searched and pleaded for guidance, proximity.

Zauner, her braids flying, sprung across stage during “Slide Tackle,” snapping the crowd out of its entranced stupor and back into its original high spirits. For the end of the set, “Diving Woman” fractured the night air with ringing intensity, its echoing chords splitting the warm dusk. The track palpated and raged, an unsteady heartbeat that pulsed with emotional urgency — yet, when Zauner closed her eyes and leaned in to touch foreheads with her bandmate and husband Peter Bradley, overwhelming tenacity gave way to intimacy.

Although the song was six minutes long, it still seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, like a rainbow wink of light in a side-view mirror. Sweet as plump citrus, Japanese Breakfast’s lustrous magic lingered in twilight long after the band left the stage.

— Taila Lee

Courtney Barnett

A talented avant-gardener indeed, headliner Courtney Barnett nurtured exuberance during her set that only continued to grow.

Sharp, vibrant colors saturated the screen behind Barnett in shadowy gradients, setting her silhouette ablaze. Lights flashed and screens changed, making the show more of a technical spectacle than the night’s other acts — but Barnett’s set was grounded not by dramatic flare, but her mesmerizing stage presence.

photo of courtney barnett
Taila Lee/Senior Staff

Although her vocal style in recordings often feels deadpan or nonchalant, the Australian singer-songwriter’s performance at Stanford was heavy with emotion and thrill. Barnett sifted and sauntered through wordplay with wit, wandering but with a destination in mind. Her ambling set felt like a nomadic, cleansing road trip — a tour through the anxious adrenaline in “Avant Gardener” to the demanding twang of “History Eraser.”

When she wasn’t moseying across stage (or ringing a cowbell during “Turning Green”), she’d lean back from her mic momentarily, her mouth agape as if gasping for air. Often she swayed, a daffodil in the wind — other times, she and the mic remained perpendicular and still, a pair of redwoods surrounded by swirling mist.

During the most lively moments of her performance, Barnett would lift her guitar to her right, fretboard high above her head and pointing to the heavens. The motion was divine and entrancing — the guitar appeared a natural extension of her body, the motion a habit as essential as breathing.

While performing may have administered Barnett oxygen, the artist left her audience breathless. “If you’ve got a spare half a million/ You could knock it down and start rebuilding,” Barnett sang during “Depreston,” the backing production pausing for a more acoustic interlude. The crowd chanted and clapped along for the most stripped, immersive moment of the evening.

In “Write a List of Things to Look Forward To,” pessimistic lyrics veiled by an optimistic beat made for a stimulating closer, nebulous hues washing over the crowd. As Barnett exited the stage, concert goers begged for one more song, hoping to hear music ‘til the moon became the sun.

— Taila Lee

Taila Lee is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @tailalee. Contact Vivian Stacy at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 31, 2022


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