I’ve been to two different venues for gigs in San Francisco so I feel extremely qualified to say this: they’re pretty. Not the flowers and pastels kind of pretty, they’re way grittier than that. They just ooze a sense of history – both musical and in general. That’s what makes them “pretty” to me. There’s a sense of grandeur, of times past when we invested more money into theatres and the arts, when going out was more of an event than an every-weekend occurrence. Sure, in Sydney we have The Enmore… but I can’t really think of any other beautiful venues.
The drummer was wearing an Akubra and a wifebeater… need I say more?
Enough waxing aesthetic though and onto Wednesday night’s gig. In a fit of extreme nostalgia I decided to see Courtney Barnett at The Fillmore. I say nostalgia because I kind of only really love three of her songs, and even though she’s been getting heaps of good reviews and is going gangbusters in the US, a part of me is still slightly unconvinced.
Can I be a total cretin and say it all just sounds samey? I’m cringing as I type that. It seems unfair somehow. Maybe I just needed to be more familiar with some of her stuff. I could listen to History Eraser a million times on repeat. But sitting here thinking about it (because I hate just throwing out a negative blanket statement like it’s truth), Barnett is so different from anything out there at the moment that of course her work is going to seem similar.
Luckily the group of mid-40-somethings entertained me in the show’s lulls. I must be really, really naïve. To the point where I was slightly shocked when they lit a joint and shared it in the middle of the show. Maybe the Smoking Ban in Australian venues (which I’m eternally grateful for: one gig at the Annandale Hotel pre-smoking ban almost killed me) has made me soft. Those guys had a good supply but it didn’t seem to mellow them at all. I was stepped on more than once. Perils of the mosh huh?
So The Fillmore… I’m in love. Chandeliers, boxes, walls completely COVERED in posters of sold-out gigs past. I don’t think there’s one bit of blank wall space in the lobby or the boxes. The Fillmore was THE PLACE for music in the 60s. Everyone played there – Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and The Who.
And they give you apples. As you enter or leave the venue, there’s a tub of apples just sitting on a table in the lobby. Not even lame apples, they’re so red and shiny. Apparently it was a tradition started in the 60s by a guy named Bill Graham who would wish everyone a good night as they left and hand then an apple.
And that is why The Fillmore gets five stars. Courtney Barnett gets three and a half.
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