boygenius or geniusgirls?
On November 10th 2018, boygeniusgraced Danforth Music Hall with their presence. The recently formed girl group includes rising legends: Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker. The hall was filled to the brim with all manner of eclectic Torontonians, and the venue seemed as if the Baroque period puked on a high school auditorium. By the end of the show, it felt as if your limbs would slip through the foundation. The sheer length of each set (there were four) didn’t exactly lend itself to the venue. Each member performed individually, finishing off the night by joining together to play boygenius’ full EP.
First to take the stage was Lucy Dacus. She donned a white button up, black pants, and signature Doc Martens -- which seemed to be ‘de rigueur’ that night. Opening up a show is never easy, and she certainly did not make it look that way. As she began her set, she appeared to be shy, playing her music for the crowd with a hint of anxiety. However, her song “Nonbeliever”, off her album Historian, was one of the most memorable performances she delivered. And after she played “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore”, she began to loosen up. Dacus then began to dance with her bass player and smiled widely at the audience as they sang a fan favorite back to her.
Phoebe Bridgers was next to play. She and her bandmates came out in matching attire - all black outfits and matching Doc Martens. Bridgers was serving the crowd New American Gothic all night. The energy she carried with her changed the room. In a soft whisper to the crowd, she announced, “let’s open this pit up”. This set up a continuous interaction with the crowd and her bandmates (particularly her drummer Marshall), making her set feel more personal. She brought an air of stoicism to her performance that made it feel like you were watching the coolest girl in school jam in your friend’s basement. Bridgers introduced the song “Demi Moore” at length, sharing a story about an unintentional edibles incident which she described as genuinely terrifying. Her voice sounded haunting without her having to rely on extraneous vocal technique, opting instead for a plain sound accompanied by a guitar that sounded like it was mimicking the X-files theme song. Bridgers concluded the set with the “most beautiful song ever written about Napster”, Gillian Welch’s “Everything Is Free”.
Julien Baker sauntered on to a bare stage, only a piano and a microphone remaining. Only accompanied by a violin and her own musical prowess, Baker played many fan favorites including “Turn Out The Lights” off of her 2017 album of the same name, “Sprained Ankle” off of her 2015 album, and “Appointments”. Baker shone with her extreme vocal capabilities and guitar skills. The sound equalizing during her set was also stellar, but may have also been her downfall. Out of all of the artists, she seemed the most alienating to the audience. She was‘too cool for school’, and although her mics volume was turned down to showcase higher notes in some songs, the audience could not hear her when she simply spoke to them.
Boygenius’ played all six tracks off their eponymous EP. The three of them happily took to the stage dressed in matching suit jackets which had their initials on the lapel, and numerous badges that made them look like southern oil tycoons that were also interested in mysticism. Beginning with the first track “Bite The Hand”, Dacus completely transformed. She was comfortable next to her two best friends and sang with ease. Bridgers and Baker performed these six tracks perfectly, although starting off on the wrong foot with Bridgers making a fumble on the guitar. Baker and Dacus jokingly claimed it was her “first mistake”, and they immortalized the moment completely. This was one of the few moments where we realized this was, in fact, their first tour as a group. Finishing the set with an “experiment” as they called it, the three musicians stood in front of the stage, their backs to the microphones, and sang to the crowd while Bridgers played the guitar. This was an experience the audience did not expect, the audience sang along and harmonized with the three bandmates, creating a deeply intimate and connected experience.
Standing in the Danforth Music Hall within a sea of some of the coolest people we’ve ever seen, it felt like we were witnessing a definitive moment in music history. The show itself felt like a marker of change in indie culture. Boygenius is part of a new wave of mostly queer female singer-songwriters who are injecting life into what has long seemed to be a dead scene. If you get a chance to see them live, take it.
Photo Credit: Renna Keriazes