The Ins & Outs Of Courtney Barnett’s Here And There Festival

Modern Girls: Courtney Barnett (center) takes the stage with Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein (R) at the Here And There festival stop at McMenamins Edgefield Amphitheater in Troutdale, Oregon, on Aug. 20. They’re pictured with Sleater-Kinney touring member Fabi Reyna. Photo by Pooneh Ghana

When singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett was a kid, she’d dream about creating her own festival, complete with designing the T-shirts. After working on her label Milk! Records for the past decade and getting the chance to curate 2019’s Sonic City in Belgium and a 2020 Valentines Day event for the Newport Folk Festival Foundation, the Australian indie rocker hit the road this summer with the debut of her own curated touring festival, Here And There.

The festival – which follows in the footsteps of artist-curated events like J. Cole’s Dreamville Music Festival, Porter Robinson’s Second Sky and H.E.R.’s Lights On Festival – included 14 stops across the U.S. with a unique lineup for each date. The festival featured 24 artists, with Barnett joined by a few artists at each show, starting with an Aug. 8 stop at The Midland Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri.

The lineup was packed with some of the most adored artists in indie rock, punk rock and indie folk, ranging from acts who made their mark on the scene early on to rising stars, including Sleater-Kinney, Japanese Breakfast, Wet Leg, Bartees Strange, Faye Webster, Snail Mail, Waxahatchee, Chicano Batman and more. Actor/comedian Fred Armisen also stopped by to share some laughs.

“I made this dream list of artists with no holding back,” Barnett says. “And then my manager and my agent, (Nick O’Byrne, Marshall Betts) such a great team of people, started reaching out and seeing who was available. We tried to work around people’s tour schedules. Some artists could do one show and some could do three. Some were friends or people I had done a few shows with. … Some were people I’ve never met, but I was a big fan of.”

Betts, partner and agent at TBA Agency, explains, “AEG, Goldenvoice and Elliott Lefko were instrumental in helping get in touch with the artist teams and trying to explain what Courtney wanted to do. It took a lot of time, and care, but ultimately I think we ended up with a lot of special moments.”

The stops ranged from three artists per show to seven acts at the Aug. 13 stop at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, with Barnett joined by Lucy Dacus, Men I Trust, Faye Webster, The Beths, Bartees Strange and Hana Vu. That show sold 4,935 tickets and grossed $249,552.

“I think [MASS MoCa] was the most fully realized version of what we were trying to do,” O’Byrne, co-owner and director at artist management company Look Out Kid says. “That was the moment where we were like, ‘This is working. This idea has legs.’ It felt really special.”

Highlights from the festival include collaborations on stage with Faye Webster, Waxahatchee and Bartees Strange, as well as a tribute to the late Olivia Newton- John at the Portland and Seattle market shows (with the Aug. 20 gig at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon, selling 3,133 tickets and grossing $207,597) in which Barnett teamed up with Sleater-Kinney and Armisen to perform a cover of “Physical.”

“You never have much time to rehearse, but I guess it’s more the spirit of it all,” Barnett says, laughing. “It’s nice to be able to do something together; it’s fun for the audience and for us.”

A key part of Here And There was its branding partnerships and work with nonprofit organizations including HeadCount, Sound of Saving and The Ally Coalition.

“What made Here And There unique was not only its format as a traveling festival with a rotating lineup, but also its ability to support the idea of community and togetherness,” Katie Nowak, head of marketing at TBA Agency, said.

“We elevated this in the work we did with partners like Levi’s that share the same values and goals. We knew we wanted to shine a light on the LGBTQIA+ community, and were able to do that not just through content and dollars, but also through dedicated in-person workshops with local LGBTQIA+ youth organizations in Texas, where that community is specifically being targeted in a very harsh and dangerous way. … Levi’s surprised us with very generous donations to the local organizations. It’s a great example of true partnership and alignment that feels less transactional and much more personal and bespoke.”

The title for the festival was inspired by a line in Barnett’s 2012 song “Scotty Says”: “I got lost somewhere between Here And There, I’m not sure what the town was called,” a record of her early days playing shows in North America and Europe.

The name now means so much more. As Samantha Tacon, Head of Artist Development at TBA explains: “We are building an idea. No matter if you’re somewhere between here and there, you can come as you are and find a place that welcomes you, and is committed to the work of pushing progress and inclusivity above all else.”

Asked about future plans for Here And There and the possibility of taking the traveling festival to another country, Barnett says, “That was part of the reasoning behind the title of the festival, which is actually taken from a lyric from an old song of mine. I figured that [the name] left it open for location. I’m based in Australia half the time so it would be nice to be able to do it there … or somewhere else. It’s fun to dream about it. I’ve made a list of the most absurd ideas because if anything, I’ve learned that sometimes things do actually come to fruition, which is a really, really nice thing to see happen.”