No we don’t have any inside knowledge from Austin City Limits Festival headquarters, but the rise of the Australian rocker parallels that of blues rockers Alabama Shakes who came into South by Southwest 2012 with thunderous buzz (and a spot on the National Public Radio showcase) then went on to play a beautiful sunset show at ACL Fest the same year. With a thrilling performance that packed Stubb’s BBQ for this year’s NPR showcase, Barnett seems like a likely candidate to follow the same path. If it happens that will make Barnett the latest artist to play the trifecta of Austin fests, as she put in an excellent afternoon set at Fun Fun Fun Fest last November.
Barnett’s debut full-length “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit” is set to drop next week and it was released as a stream on iTunes radio this week. She said the Stubb’s show was her first opportunity to play almost the entire album live. Throughout the set her wry lyrical wit and ability to coax poetry out of the banal — her frizzy hair, the price of lattes — stood out as a constant in her music. But her sonic range is impressive. On tracks like the emotional “Depreston,” her raspy alto is plaintive, almost folksy, while the fast and furious single “Pedestrian at Best” is a guitar-shredding, hard-driving rocker which got the Stubb’s crowd fired up.
Barnett herself has an easygoing stage presence and a self-deprecating charm. “No one told me there were going to be so many people here,” she remarked early in her set. With a full slate of buzz-building SXSW gigs still to come this week, followed by a heavy roster of tour dates in England and the States, including a stop at the Mohawk on June 3, it’s safe to assume that she’ll be playing to much larger crowds in no time at all.
If you’re a fan, it also seems like a good idea to go ahead and scoop one of those $15 Mohawk tickets before they sell out.