Courtney Barnett’s sulky stage presence and sardonic lyrics were somewhat of an awkward anomaly at Montauk’s beach-chic club, Surf Lodge, where glaring neon swimsuits are considered appropriate apparel and unapologetic “douchebauchery” is standard. The Melbourne-based singer/songwriter and CMJ Music Marathon veteran Barnett has swiftly gained a cult following and critical acclaim for her drolly catchy tunes and rambling, deadpan lyrics that unfold like a storyline from an redux episode of Daria. Her band is in the middle of an expansive tour that began in March and leaps from rowdy European music festivals to comparatively tiny venues like last Sunday’s show during the summer concert series at Surf Lodge.
Barnett and her bassist and drummer drifted on stage thirty minutes late at 7:30 p.m., wearing matching Phosphorescent t-shirts, tousled bedheads and woozy grins. Barnett hesitantly greeted the crowd and launched into her set with Lance Jr., a melancholic song that references psychedelic pop band the Dandy Warhols. The music was met with a mix of enthusiastic cheering from local fans and vaguely confused expressions from Hamptons weekenders. A few drunken partiers bravely attempted to dance to the tunes, but most onlookers chose to nod their heads and tap their feet to the beat from their lounge chairs.
As the sun set behind the stage, the band settled into a charmingly off-kilter groove, playing a variety of songs from her 2013 release, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. The jangly chords and steady percussion seemed to have a hypnotic effect on the crowd. Barnett softly breathed the words to “Scotty Says” (“I got lost somewhere between here and there/I’m not sure what the town was called”), with her back to the crowd and eyes on the water. She is above all else a bewitching storyteller. After a few songs, her words captivated even the most ambivalent party-goers. Suddenly her nomadic lyrics were perfectly relevant, and in the nautical setting, her voice became a siren call.
Photos and words by Gabrielle Dominique.