by Marcus Bonner
Philadelphia music fans got a little taste of the Melbourne indie rock scene Thursday night, as singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett played a full house at Union Transfer with spacy quartet Kins. The show was “way sold out” to quote a paper sign in the box office window, and for good reason. Apparently in certain circles, this was one of the most anticipated live music events of the winter.
You didn’t have to have any subcultural credentials to feel at home in this crowd. Union Transfer’s giant concert space bustled with hip, attractive 40-to-50-somethings who strikingly outnumbered the under and post-grad hipsters.
Kins, doubtlessly the lesser-known of the two acts, made quite an impression. Though signature tracks like “Aimless” felt a bit less grandiose than did their studio versions, the leaner live renditions were just as riveting. Lead singer Thomas Savage’s heady vocals were alternately soothing and devastating, as the whole band’s understated but engrossing musicianship held the sizable audience rapt. Kins formed in Melbourne as well, but have since relocated to Brighton.
Courtney Barnett and her backing band took the stage to an eruption of applause. Her rambling lyrics endeared her to the audience even more. Quite a few people knew the words and sang along to “Avant Gardener,” her biggest single from 2013’s How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose. It’s the song chiefly responsible for Barnett’s popularity in the United States.
Barnett announced that Philadelphia was the largest crowd she’d ever played, to an outburst of cheers and shouts of “we love you Courtney!” Banter between Barnett and bassist Bones Sloane elicited abundant laughter, especially when Sloane expressed a wish to have as many “knobs” as were on Barnett’s guitar. “I’d be an octopus of cocks,” he said. “A cocktopus.”
If you missed Thursday night’s show, the Barnett/Kins tour is headed out west and is very much worth your time.