boygenius | End of Tour at The Wiltern
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus have been lumped together a lot. They’re under 25, still on the first legs of their musical careers. They’re women, dealing with the same problems of the industry. Plus, they fall under the indie genre umbrella. So when the three announced in August that they would be touring together in November, and that they would be releasing a collaborative EP, it seemed almost natural.
The members of boygenius—a name Dacus told The New York Times came from an inside joke about the way men are told they are geniuses “since they could hear, basically”—spent the last month on the road together, ending their tour on Friday night with a sold out show at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. Each singer-songwriter performed their own set before finally taking the stage together for the last time. By the end of it, it was clear that the three are an utterly captivating team, but not because they are the same. Instead, it is because they are different and because they lean on each other’s strengths to create something that is the true essence of friendship and collaboration.
There was a subtle awareness that the end was near from the moment Dacus stepped out and began to play through her set of methodical indie rock songs from her latest album, Historian. Between songs, she took a moment to express her gratitude for the two singers waiting backstage. “It’s always nice to know that the people you admire are good people, and I can vouch for them” she said before closing her set with “Night Shift” and hitting the high notes with ease.
Bridgers brought humor with her on stage, a juxtaposition the enrapturing sweet darkness of songs like “Killer” and “Funeral” from her 2017 debut album Stranger in the Alps. The LA native joked about how she had played The Wiltern once before, but that it didn’t count because it had been shortly after she’d regrettably decided to get bangs. Later, after performing “Demi Moore,” a song about sexting, she began to laugh, her white-blonde hair falling in front of her face. “I was just thinking, what if you were sexting someone and just started rhyming everything?” It wasn’t hard to guess that she had probably provided many laughs while on the road.
Baker was all business, strolling on stage and swinging her rainbow-strapped guitar over her shoulder with ease. Unlike Bridgers, she didn’t talk much. Instead, she let the gut-wrenching heartbreak of songs like “Sour Breath” and “Sprained Ankle” wash over us. Those in the audience on Friday also got a surprise during Baker’s set when she brought out The National’s Matt Berninger to premiere new duet version of Berninger’s “All I Want,” which will be released as a 7” single with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. Before closing her set with “Appointments,” she looked out at the packed theater and said in a quiet voice that hardly matched the power vocals she had been delivering all night, “I can’t believe this is the last show.”
But that hovering presence of the end wasn’t coming from just the women of boygenius. It was emulating from the audience as well. Even though they were multiple beers and a couple tokes deep, they were right there with Baker, Bridgers and Dacus as they walked on stage together one last time. The whole room danced to along to “Bite the Hand” and sang along softly to a chilling acoustic cover of The Killer’s “Read My Mind.” When the women joined each other center stage behind a single microphone to sing “Ketchum, ID,” the final song of the EP and of the night, none of them could contain it any longer and tears began to fall. The audience was with them, though, cheering louder and louder until they were ready to continue. Then the crowd fell silent, despite the fact that they had sung along to every other song, allowing Baker’s power, Bridger’s sweetness and Dacus’ soulfulness to blend and harmonize one last time.
You didn’t need to be a member of boygenius to know that Friday night was the end of something special. After seeing the way they brought out the best in each other on stage and in the studio, all we can hope for now is more.