Boygenius: A Spiritual Experience
by Nada Alturki
Boygenius is one of those supergroups that makes you happy that sadness exists in life, only because it acts as a motivator for producing mind-blowing music. The girls released their first ever EP together just a few days ago, comprised of 6 brilliantly crafted songs. The second I heard that Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus were all touring together, I whipped out my debit card faster than you can say “I’m too broke for this.” I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to see such an iconic trio perform live right here in Boston, and so close to Emerson campus. The show took place at The Orpheum Theater, just off Tremont St.; the venue was absolutely packed with an audience composed of all ages, which was surprising to me, as the artists were all under 25.
I couldn’t find a worse day to pick up a shift at work because that resulted in me missing most of Lucy Dacus’ performance. I made it just in time to hear her play the last song “Night Shift” off her album Historian, released in March earlier this year. I was hoping for an opener for the three acts to buy me time, but, to my dismay, there wasn’t one. But her deep and humble voice warmed me up from the outside freezer that is Boston. Although I haphazardly had to squeeze my way through lines of knees to find my seat, I couldn’t help but feel the softness of her voice rush over me in that beautifully tragic song. Her set ended with a cheer from the crowd and a generous round of applause.
Next up, a platinum blond Phoebe Bridgers walked on stage in a black dress, black tights, and black loafers, a fit with her music style if I dare say so. The dark ensemble in contrast with the fairy lights decorating the drums, the keyboard, and her mic stand, she looked like a fallen angel. And she sounded like one, too. She sang eight melodic songs off her 2017 album Stranger in the Alps, starting off the setlist with “Smoke Signals.” You could hear a few in the crowd scream “Wooo!!” as she sang “with you riding shotgun/speeding/‘cause fuck the cops.” She followed up with one of my personal favorites, “Funeral.” The song is heartbreakingly touching and tragic in so many ways, as she sang about the emptiness and sadness that come with loneliness. Everyone in the crowd was captivated by her haunting vocals. After an impressive vocal performance on “Georgia,” she introduced the next song by saying “I’m gonna sing a song about getting stoned and sexting”, in reference to her track “Demi Moore,” managing to get the whole audience to crack up with some even applauding. She put away her acoustic guitar for the song “Killer,” and seemed almost uncomfortable on stage being so bare and vulnerable. After a couple of more songs, she introduced the live band members. The mood picked up with “Motion Sickness,” a song about relationship anxiety disguised as a feel-good tune you would listen to on Sunday morning car rides. She finally ends her set with “You Missed My Heart,” a Mark Kozelek cover, reprised to sound utterly wistful, as opposed to Kozelek’s head-bobbing melody. As she sang the last verse “downriver from the Moundsville Prison Graveyard,” she lowered herself, ending up cross-legged on the floor holding her microphone. After a grand applause from the audience, she got up quickly and ran after her band members who had already retreated backstage. The audience was still booming in applause.
During a 20-minute intermission, the crew members removed nearly all the instruments off stage, leaving only the mic stand, a piano, and an acoustic guitar, while also conducting a background change. The hanging canvas read “Julien Baker,” and I knew what I was about to be hit with. She casually walked on stage in a flannel, jeans, and sneakers, looking unapologetically herself. While she set up the tune on what seemed to be a loop pedal, the crowd got excited with a few claps slipping through as they realized she’s about to sing “Sprained Ankle” off her 2015 album of the same name. She moved on to impress with her wide range of vocals on “Everybody Does”, and the crowd roared as she sang out the last words. She took a moment to thank everyone for being there that night, acknowledging that there were so many other places they could have been but chose that concert over all of them, and she is extremely grateful for it. After “Rejoice” she welcomed the violinist on stage, helping her out with “Shadowboxing,” an instrumentally stripped down track about battling your inner demons. When she sang “Televangelist,” the room was so quiet, you could hear the creak of her chair as she performed the song on the piano. The silence took over the audience as she captivated every single one of them with her sincere and naked vocal performance. She managed to bring me to tears during that song, which took me by surprise. Her 9th song on the setlist was “Sour Breath,” during which she used the loop pedal to curate the instrumentals. As she sang about being in a relationship with an alcoholic, while also figuring out her own emotional and health issues, the lyric “the harder I swim the faster I sink” hits you like a wrecking ball over and over again. It actually made my heart clench. She ended her 11-song setlist with “Appointments,” her hit off her 2017 album Turn Out the Lights. Her angelic vocals stand out to anyone who has a taste for the indie folk genre; you get lost just looking at her performance, as she, herself, lost it in the moment. That kind of passion is something you are born with. As Baker screamed “maybe it’s all gonna turn out alright / Oh, I know that it’s not, but I have to believe that it is” I heard the woman in the corner on my right shout back a “Whoooo!!” in return. She thanked the crowd and withdrew back behind the curtains with the others.
Now, this is where I got confused. There was a fuss in the crowd, and many got up to leave, but the lights were still dimmed. “Is this the end of the show?” I thought. I started to feel a haze of disappointment wash over me, despite the enormous talent I’ve experienced that evening already, as I realized that the supergroup might not actually be performing together. But something told me to wait it out anyway. And I’m glad I did, because a few moments later, the three of them waltzed in along with the live band members, wearing matching jackets that I could only wish I owned. With Baker on guitar in the middle, Bridgers to her right on the mandolin, and Dacus on the left, they started their collaborative performance with the hit off their EP Boygenius “Souvenir.” You could definitely tell how satisfied the crowd was when they sang all 6 songs of their EP that night. I recognized the beginning of the song “Me & My Dog,” and I almost cried. The whole crowd was engaged as they sang “I wanna be emaciated!” along with Bridgers. Hearing this song live was the highlight of this whole concert for me. When they moved on to “Salt in the Wound,” the drunk lady in the corner let out another satisfactory “Woohoo!” again, as Dacus killed the vocals on the song with her warm, overwhelming tone. The concert ended with “Ketchum, ID” and it is nearly impossible to explain the synchronously melodic vocals that came out of those three individuals. It is hard not to believe that they weren’t born solely for the purpose of singing together live and making ridiculously beautiful music. I can honestly say that that concert has been the most spiritual I’ve been to so far; it was like going to sad-girl church on a Thursday night. Simply breathtaking.