featuring Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus
November 8, 2018 at the Orpheum Theater
When I go to concerts, I’m conditioned to expect GA – standing around, pushing to the front, craning my neck to peek past the 6’3” man directly in front of me. Apparently, adult concerts in adult venues don’t fall into this category. Julien Baker performing with Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers at the Orpheum Theater epitomized an elegant type of intimacy that drew in an audience of all ages. I was excited to watch all three solo performances, but I, unfortunately, missed Dacus’s performance, only seeing her when she joined Bridgers and Baker on stage for the boygenius set.
I sat comfortably in my designated seat when Phoebe Bridgers walked out, platinum blonde hair creating a stark contrast against her black Victorian style dress and tights. She looked like she was plucked from an 18th-century funeral. This look was especially fitting when she performed ‘Funeral’ where UV lights glowed and revealed a neon ghost on the stage backdrop, reflecting her album cover. Her haunting voice moved the entire room and made the venue feel more beautiful, more classical. The band accompanying her fueled the performance with their chemistry, particularly the drummer, who supported her vocals on the Gillian Welch cover of ‘Everything is Free.’ The set ended with her most popular song ‘Scott Street,’ where she paced around the stage and sat down during the outro lyrics of ‘Don’t be a stranger.’
Julien Baker followed Bridgers as the headlining act, and the people playing shrunk from an entire band to just one girl center stage with a guitar, a piano, and some synth pedals. Baker showed off her talent, but there was something missing throughout her performance. When I listen to her album, ‘Appointments’ always manages to strike me hard, yet it didn’t translate properly on stage. She seemed to notice, too, making note of how mistakes are an opportunity for growth after finishing the song. At the end of her set, the synths overwhelmed the venue and consequently shook the mic and her voice. Even with the success of her powerful voice and emotional guitar instrumentals, the difficulty with the set didn’t allow her to settle into the groove of the performance.
The real gift came when Dacus, Bridgers, and Baker stepped back on stage to perform a short setlist as boygenius. Decked out in coordinating bedazzled jackets, they acted as a team: trading off verses in songs like ‘Salt in the Wound’ and angelically harmonizing in others like ‘Me & My Dog.’ What struck me the most was how purely joyful they were. Even if the music was sad, they passed smiles and waves to each other in between songs. During ‘Salt in the Wound,’ Bridgers and Dacus literally bowed down to Baker during her guitar solo. Even though Baker was the obvious star of the band, Dacus’s vocals reverberated throughout the venue and added a poignant sophistication to each of the songs. Boygenius being saved for last was a real treat for the audience, bringing together three talented artists who found their own way to express their own skills and personalities during the set. Even though the place felt so formal, that formality melted away when the audience connected with the chemistry they exuded on stage. boygenius felt more intimate, more real, and more enjoyable to watch.