Each powerhouse vocalist brings something different to the table, yet it’s linked with a common thread: complete and utter vulnerability. Their lyrics allow us to not only hear their stories, but see ourselves in them, too. They are raw. They are honest. And they are this generation’s wave of folk singers a la Carole King, Laura Nyro, et cetera, yet they pack more punch.
I was elated to snag a ticket to the Tuesday night sold-out show at Thalia Hall, where the music spanned nearly four hours. Lucy Dacus started the show, where she emerged as a confident performer. She played songs off her 2018 album Historian, including the strongest song of the set, six-minute-long song “Night Shift.”
“You’ve got a nine to five / So I’ll take the night shift / And I’ll never seen you again / If I can help it / In five years, I hope the songs feel like covers / Dedicated to new lovers.” The room stood watchful, reverent, as the song’s most heart-wrenching moment turned to amplified guitar chords, Dacus smiling.
Phoebe Bridgers stepped onstage to a dimmed ambiance illuminated by string lights. Her set basically felt like the musical equivalent of putting your heart through a blender, but that blender also made your heart feel good and healed? Her songs discuss themes like funerals, the idea of home, and heartache. Standout moments included “Georgia” and the epic ballad “You Missed My Heart.” Though the set was somber in nature, it was stunningly beautiful, as well.
Julien Baker was undoubtedly billed as the evening’s “headliner,” even though the supergroup concept tried to eschew this. If I were to say her set didn’t make me weep openly in front of strangers, I would be a liar. “This is the second time I’m seeing Julien,” I said with a smirk, no tears welling up in these eyes. Cut to the opening piano notes in “Hurt Less,” and the entire silent crowd was crying with me. Baker sang songs that spanned her discography, opening with “Sour Breath,” and moving through to “Appointments,” “Sprained Ankle,” and more.
The supergroup camaraderie showed through during the night, from the shared equipment and stage setups to the violinist who accompanied all of them during their sets. The encore found them all onstage together, singing all the songs off of their Boygenius EP. “Me & My Dog” opened the set, and the songs sounded even better in person. “Bite The Hand” stirred the audience up, and I watched couples hug a little tighter, people sway a little more, and tune into the music. They ended the show with old school country-esque ballad “Ketchum, ID,” for which the crowd was completely silent. This song was the perfect closer; while it amplified Boygenius’ talent as a whole, each singer was highlighted for their uniqueness, too. I don’t know if they’ll play together in Chicago again, and I feel wholly lucky to have been here, in this moment, for this show.
All photos by Julian Ramirez