People wonder why I go to so many shows. Well, I had the past two nights off and all I really did was cook and watch all of the Sharknado movies in order. Sure, having a couple of nights off was relaxing (until the dreams about Sharknados started) but I was feeling bored and had to get out. My buddy Andrew had been harping on me about going to the Barns Courtney show. I had seen Barns before and, although I was thoroughly impressed, this show wasn’t really my cup of tea. Having run out of Sharknado movies, I figured, why the hell not? So I grabbed Andrew and we headed downtown on a sleepy Wednesday night.
The show started with Long Island natives (now living in Los Angeles) FOXTRAX. Their set started off strong and it was instantly clear that singer Ben Schneid’s voice would be in the spotlight throughout their set. With a sense of power and beauty all wrapped up with an infectious energy, I was instantly caught by these guys. Their music was upbeat and very along the lines of indie-pop but they weren’t as generic as some of the bands that come out of that scene.
Joined by Jon Stenz on drums and Jared Stenz on Bass, this trio played through their set with a sense of power while still keeping the atmosphere light. Although all of their music was very upbeat, there seemed to be a different vibe to each song and that kept the nearly hour long opening set feeling fresh. As I always say, you can get a good feel of if a band is enjoying playing by watching the drummer. If the drummer is smiling the entire time, they are loving their lives and truly have a passion. Jon’s smile gave the set a sense of energy and let me know that these guys definitely love what their doing and are having a damn good time doing it.
Last night’s set was FOXTRAX’s first time ever in Minnesota. Ben was explaining that they have been to a lot of cities over the past two months (last night was the final night of their two month tour with Barns Courtney) and each city seems to have a different vibe. He went on to explain that Minneapolis was very warm and inviting and he seemed to be extremely honest when he went on to say that he hopes they can come back sooner rather than later.
As the stage was turned over for headlining act Barns Courtney, there seemed to be a shift in the crowd. There was an obvious sense of anticipation among the younger audience and people moved closer to the stage. As soon as Barns took the stage, the crowd erupted into a very polite roar and quickly settled down as he jumped into his set. I saw Barns open up for Fitz & the Tantrums this past winter and found myself instantly falling in love with this 26 year-old Englishman. I was more than anxious to see what he could do with a headlining slot and knew that he was going to blow me away yet again.
This young kid may not have a full-length album yet (although he says he’s been working on one… but he said that last winter too) but he has more than enough hit songs to fool you into thinking he has multiple albums. I have to be honest, I don’t go home and listen to Barns in my free time and rarely listen to the radio, but I knew a good handful of the songs he performed last night just from hearing them in friend’s cars, homes or wherever. With every song he performed, whether it was a hit or not, he performed the song with such passion that it would be easy to think all of the songs performed last night were radio hits.
Barns’ style is a bit blues mixed with a little rock, a little bit a soul, and a whole lot of attitude. His music is far from being classified as punk but the attitude he gives off and his stage show definitely leans towards the side of more punk than pop. With his “don’t fuck with me” attitude and super impressive vocal range, Barns had the good-sized crowd in a bit of a trance. Compared to the last time I saw him live, he seems to have really perfected this attitude and his way of commanding the crowd. He seems to be on a constant tour grind and that hard work is clearly paying off. He may only be 26 years old but he definitely has the presence of something much more than that.
At one point, the drummer and bassist that had joined Barns on stage disappeared and the audience was treated to a new, acoustic, heart-felt song entitled “Hard To Be Alone”. As that song finished, Barns seamlessly moved on to the keyboard and played through a song there. Not only is this guys’ voice on point, the way he can effortlessly move between instruments is definitely something to envy. Barns Courtney may not be my typical cup of tea, but there’s no denying the immense amount of talent this guy has.
The set ended on a high note as Barns sang his hit song “Fire” from the middle of the crowd with “Amy the Hula Hooper” on stage for, as Barns put it, “No real reason.” It was the perfect way to end an already amazing set. It felt like a dance party where you’re surrounded with friends, not strangers, and where absolutely everyone in the venue (including the security guards that had been dancing around all night) was having a great time.
Sadly, all things must come to an end. Barns’ short, hour long set had left me wanting and craving more. It’s amazing to me how you can go into a show with little to no expectations and be disappointed when it ends because you want more. I really wish each show left me with that feeling.