Courtney Barnett is a gal who has reached household name recognition in recent months, both locally and internationally. And it’s pretty cool that Melbourne is the place that spawned such talent (or at least heavily influenced it, as CB is originally from Tassy). Nonetheless, Court reps Australia’s second largest city in many of her songs.
She may poke fun at Melbourne and its less-than-glamourous northside vibes, but it’s obviously a good enough a place for her to settle and start her record company, Milk! Records. She did so in 2012, alongside partner/fellow musician Jen Cloher and several other local artists. I had the pleasure of seeing (almost) all of the crew in action on Christmas Eve Eve for the infamous holiday party they’ve thrown for several years running. This year’s party was hosted by the Tote in Collingwood – a northside relic within itself.
…what started as a mellow gig transformed into a sweaty, energetic tangle of participants
The day began with an all-ages gig at 2pm, followed by an 18+ show at 8. I attended the former (despite my age), and was surprised at the exuberance of the crowd around me- from snotty-nosed babes and their mums to teens rocking coloured hair and carefully curated op shop finds. Alcohol wasn’t allowed at the early show, to some audience (and performer) disappointment, but what started as a mellow gig transformed into a sweaty, energetic tangle of participants by the end (despite sobriety-induced inhibitions).
The music and creators of Milk! Records seem to have that effect on their community- bringing together people of different ages who have different musical preferences, from the slow, folksy tunes of Fraser A. Gorman to the abrasive punk ballads of Ouch My Face, all under one roof. They bring an audience to dance and sing along, relying on subtle pressure and good-humoured guilt trips to do so.
The music of Milk! can appeal to children and parents alike; the label lacks ostentation and reeks of a certain small-town appeal, where fans and artists know each other by name. In fact, many long-time listeners reference the days when they used to catch these artists at their local, before they reached levels of wider spread fame. And, although Courtney Barnett has performed on Saturday Night Live and played at Coachella, she still retreated in some combination of embarrassment and skepticism when my brother approached her for a high-five this past Christmas Eve Eve.
Barnett has quoted that she “prefers the mundane”, the down to earth. This is present in her music, her stage presence, her shows, her company and the company she keeps. So if you’re looking for glitz and flash, stay away from Milk! Records. But if you seek a bit of levity and locally-grown artistry, then this is a collective worth checking out.
Website: Milk Record
Feature Images Credit: Milk Records