In October, boygenius, the supergroup made up of Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker, released their debut EP and hit the road touring around North America beginning at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and ending with one final show Friday night at The Wiltern.
Technically it was not a boygenius tour but rather a co-headlining run for Baker and Bridgers. Dacus opened and thanks to LA traffic I got there right as she finished. Boo me. Love her song “Addictions” and was looking forward to hearing it live but I’ll have to wait for her next LA show. Or hit one of the festivals she has scheduled, Shaky Knees or Savannah Stopover.
Bridgers’ set was an emotional and melancholy roller coaster with high point songs “Demi Moore”, the cover of Mark Kozelek’s “You Missed My Heart”, and, obviously, “Motion Sickness”. It is when all the loneliness and heartbreak in her lyrics feels overcome by this one note she holds forever and the room vibrates and the crowd goes wild and everyone is happy despite a sad thing.
Her voice is pretty amazing and the band accompanied so well, especially violinist Camille Faulkner who appeared throughout the night and felt like the fourth member of boygenius at times. Also, drummer Marshall Vore’s vocal accompaniment was surprisingly delicate and nuanced, a perfect match for matching Bridgers’ voice. I’ve never heard a male vocalist quite like it and it took a few darting looks around the stage to figure out he was the other singer.
Julien Baker’s arrangements were more spare, as most consisted of her singing and guitar playing with Faulkner again on violin. With a set fairly evenly split with songs from both of her two albums, 2015’s Sprained Ankle and 2017’s Turn Out The Lights, Baker’s set took the audience on a heartfelt journey through loss and death and depression with a range from the softest whispers to fiery outbursts married with sharp guitar chords and it all reached a peak on her penultimate song “Turn Out The Lights” where the guitar is so loud and her voice is so intense and it’s all so glorious but also you wonder if The Wiltern can handle all that power?
Julien Baker’s set also featured a guest appearance from The National’s Matt Berninger and composer/songwriter Steph Altman to perform a duet of their song “All I Want”, written for the James D. Stern documentary “American Chaos”. They mentioned a release comes out in a few weeks as a part of 7-inches for Planned Parenthood (https://7inchesforplannedparenthood.com/).
After Julien Baker’s set, and a brief intermission, boygenius hit the stage and it was incredible. All three of the singers have amazing voices and to hear all three together is astounding. Trading lead vocals and harmonies they worked through all the songs from the self titled EP plus a cover of The Killers’ “Read My Mind”. It was all excellent but “Salt In The Wound” with Lucy and Phoebe on vocals and Julien shredding guitar was especially memorable, as was the conclusion, a pared down arrangement with just the three singers for “Ketchum, ID”.
The last show of tour, something we see pretty often in LA, always feels like it has a bit more gravity and emotion than a usual concert and this one was no exception. Noticeable percentages of the crowd were tearing up throughout the concert and by the end the band was too. Hopefully they were all happy tears and they do this all over again.
Words and photos by Tim Aarons