Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile
The Empty Bottle // Chicago, IL // October 28, 2017

An Aussie and American play beautiful blues at The Empty Bottle.

When two solo musicians decide to create an album together, it can go one of two ways: the result is either a clash of musical styles and sounds like a mess, or everything fits together perfectly like puzzle pieces. With Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile‘s collaborative album, Lotta Sea Lice, the result is a strong and beautifully crafted moment in music. On their own, Barnett plays trippy rock and grunge, while Vile is more of an indie rocker with a hint of folk influence. For Lotta Sea Lice, the two combined their strengths to make a complex blues record that relies on their talents as individual artists and as part of a band.

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile performed their new music for three nights in Chicago, each night in a wildly different venue. For their first night, they performed in the historic Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. On the second night, the duo played the hipster venue Thalia Hall, and on the final night, they sold out the Empty Bottle, a self-proclaimed dive bar in Ukrainian Village. Empty Bottle is by far the smallest venue, and excited concert-goers stood as close as possible to get a good spot near the tiny stage.
The night was filled with tracks from Lotta Sea Lice as well as three Courtney Barnett songs (“Out of the Woodwork”, “Depreston”, and “Dead Fox”) and three Kurt Vile songs (“On Tour”, “Life Like This”, and “Pretty Pimpin”). For their encore, they pulled out a Gillian Welch cover, “Elvis Presley Blues”, which the crowd loved. Barnett and Vile, dressed in very similar flannel shirts, had amazing chemistry onstage. Their complimentary guitar melodies and complete willingness to share the spotlight with each other made their collaboration feel that much more genuine and respectful. They’ve played festivals, appeared on late night TV (they were on Stephen Colbert earlier this week), and has hit #4 on the US Independent Albums Billboard chart. The collaboration between these two musicians is not only impressive, it’s alluring. Hopefully, this tour won’t be their last together.
Barnett and Vile will finish their tour by playing Austin City Limits on November 11th.

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile