Earlier this month, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile joined forces like an inverted megastorm of jangly lo-fi rock, jean jackets and flannel. Their joint LP, A Lotta Sea Lice, celebrates both artist’s surgical skill at penning low-key devotionals to mellow existence; first track “Over Everything” serves as a proper thesis for an album whose standouts include odes to hotel breakfasts and dairy products, punctuated around vocal-swapping covers of previous material. The greatest irony around this lackadaisical manifesto is how ridiculously talented and prolific both artists are. Vile releases an LP at least every two years, and though only two major releases into her career, Barnett produces at the same frequency and is already a Saturday Night Live veteran. Like fellow six-string slacker Mac DeMarco, Vile and Barnett may imply a life of unmoored couch surfing nomadicism, but their seamless guitar noodling and taut songcraft speak more to an iconic rock legacy that includes Neil Young, John Prine and Lou Reed.
That rigor and history have been no more evident than on the duo’s tour in support of Lice. During the Portland stop at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Vile noted that “this song is about waking up to your bandmate for the 100th time,” before launching into “On Tour”—a melancholic acoustic gem from his 2011 breakthrough Smoke Ring For My Halo. Barnett included a mix of her own material as well, including “Out of the Woodwork” and set closer “Avant Gardener.” The backing band—dubbed the Sea Lice—included Rob Laakso on bass, Katie Harkins on keyboard and Janet Weiss on drums. (Vile noted “this song goes out to Janet who is the pimp of this town” before playing “Pretty Pimpin’.”) Check out photos from the show above with opener Jen Cloher, and see Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile on tour, currently winding through the Midwest.