Jen Cloher makes most of packed house at The Echo

Jen Cloher has been on the grind for more than a decade, and you could see in her eyes how excited she was to play to a packed house at The Echo in Los Angeles on Tuesday night — half the world away from her Australian home.

The show was her first in America with her full band behind her — her partner Courtney Barnett playing lead guitar, Bones Sloane on bass, and Jen Sholakis on drums. It was kind of weird to see Barnett playing lead guitar and provide backing vocals in a venue The Echo’s size — but equally awesome.

“How many of you saw my opening set for Courtney and Kurt [Vile]’s show in that small venue [the Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian] last year?” Cloher asked a few songs into her set. Half the crowd cheered wildly. “Wow, my opening set must have really made an impression,” Cloher laughed tongue-in-cheek.

Cloher is self-aware and know that a number of people showed up to see Barnett slay on guitar. But what I noticed was how drawn in people were by Cloher’s personal and raw tunes, though the hoots and hollers certainly came in droves when Barnett got an opportunity to solo.

Cloher played a majority of the songs from her self-titled record released last year. A lot of the tunes have a very ’90s alt-rock tinge to them. They have a lot of The Breeders to them, with Cloher’s vocals sounding a bit like Kim Deal meets Graham Parker. It’s a perfect stoney record, and I didn’t regret smoking a bowl before getting in my Uber to the venue — it put me in the perfect headspace for the show.

A standout track of the night was “Mount Beauty” from her third record In Blood Memory with its memorable line — “Why does it take me so long to get over someone / Why does it take me so long to move on?” Barnett took a seriously savage solo on the song to the amazement of the crowd.

After finishing her set, Cloher and her band returned to the stage for a two-song encore. The first song was “Fear Is Like a Forest”,¬† Cloher song that was repurposed for the Barnett + Vile collaboration album Lotta Sea Lice¬†last year. It has a riff that reminds me of R.E.M.’s “Drive” but with a lot more fuzz to it, and Cloher, Barnett, and Sloane all took turns on singing lead vocals.

It’s clear that those who bought tickets to see Courtney Barnett slay on guitar got much more than they bargained for. Jen Cloher is a master-class songwriter with a ton of depth, and it was on full display Tuesday night.

Opening the show was fellow Aussie musician Mia Dyson, who is now a resident of Los Angeles. The highlight of her set to me was the set-closing “Being Scared”, which sounded like it could have been one of U2’s stripped-back cuts from their All That You Can’t Leave Behind era. The song comes from her upcoming album If I Said Only So Far I Take It Back, out March 9.

Photos by Tim Aarons