Phoebe Bridgers took a moment in the middle of her set to appreciate how far she’s come. “I opened for Julien Baker here two years ago.” Her debut album Stranger in the Alps was still a year and a half away from being released then, but it’s clear that she made quite the impression. A few fans at last Wednesday’s show cheered as they too were at that show almost exactly two years prior. Now Bridgers’s was headlining the night, with the wonderful Lomelda opening, performing to a very sold out Lincoln Hall.
Lomelda, the musical pseudonym of Hannah Read, came to the stage with only her guitar, pedals and some backing tracks on her laptop to assist in making were wonderful songs come to life. Her songs are full of rivers, open roads, longing, and a desire for connection that sound comforting and familiar. Read seemed much more mellow than I had previously seen her, leaving her already tender stage presence all the more calm and enveloping. Absent were the intense cries and explosive playing that would sneak their way into the songs. Instead it was a pristine serenity that made it impossible not to hang on her every word.
Between her amazing songs, Read’s love affair with basketball was the focal point. Last time she was in town she gushed over the Golden State Warriors, wrapping the team’s scarf around her mic. This time around she told the Lincoln Hall crowd about finding the greatest basketball court in the world right here in Chicago, accidentally stumbling upon it after searching for one throughout the city. Her sincere tone which permeates through everything she does was well appreciated during the opening set.
In the lead up to Phoebe Bridgers‘ set, a mic stand wrapped in warm string lights came to match the already lit drum set. The decoration added The stage finally looked primed and ready. The band emerged from behind the huge Stranger in the Alps cover art looking elegant and cordial. The band wore black suits and ties, their white button ups crisp and clean, while Bridgers donned an all black wrap pantsuit that she would eventually confess to feeling a little awkward in (more on that later). But in the moment Bridgers and her band’s outfits added a bit of reverence to the evening’s proceedings, giving off a grand folk stage atmosphere that was only heighten when Bridgers’ serene voice broke through.
Bridgers’ songs at once feel simple yet carry an epic weight to them. More than once I felt blown away by how a simple passage like “The future’s unwritten. The past is a corridor. I’m at the exit looking back through the hall” in “Smoke Signals” came off as the most important moment in the world. Bridgers’ has this ability to make you feel every emotion as if it were your own, tying you so closely to her words that you forget you never actually sang at a funeral (“Funeral”) or were in a relationship as harrowing (“Motion Sickness”) as the ones she serenaded the crowd with.
These moments were wonderfully contrasted by Bridgers’ stage banter, which fell more in line with playful detachment and sarcasm (like one of her tour t-shirts which features just her name and a picture of Danny Devito in a blonde wig). “What just happened” she queried as excited fans tried to keep a joke of their own making running in between songs, diffusing the atmosphere before settling into another of her songs. There was also some self deprecation as she described her pre-gaming for show as quick omelet and coffee, which made wearing the wrap pantsuit a new and strange experience: “My body is moving in unexpected ways”.
After singing a cover of Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out” and her won “Motion Sickness”, she thanked the crowd for dealing with her omelet voice, but there was simply no need. Bridgers sounded fantastic and everything was falling perfectly into place. Even the huge black balloons that were tossed out to the crowd during “Scott Street” seemed to pop at the exact right time, releasing their black and silver confetti onto the audience as exclamation points to the song’s lonely lyrics.
She ended the night with the one of her more devastating songs, “Missed My Heart”, and a cover that she admitted was a guilty pleasure. A song that she described as one that you couldn’t help but smile at as it played. The cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” echoed throughout Lincoln Hall and was an excellent way to finish off the set.
All photos by Julian Ramirez