Phoebe Bridgers & The National | Santa Barbara Bowl

by Sam Bashaw


My ears were ringing. Not because of the loud mess of music playing, but at the lack thereof. At 6:50 pm the sun went down, and with it rose the anticipation for our opening act. The reds and oranges of the sky that gave us our light were nothing compared to the beam of luminosity coming from the Santa Barbara Bowl stage at exactly 7 pm. The focal point was platinum; platinum blonde hair to be exact. The owner of this new light was indie folk artist Phoebe Bridgers, who paired her modern ‘do with a simple black number and an acoustic guitar strapped around her neck. Her melancholy funk waves grooved through my body as I closed my eyes to take it all in. The smell of the man next to me, his beer just reaching my taste buds perked senses; everything around me had a sweet aroma that was accented by the high sweetness of Bridgers’ voice. I opened my eyes just to find Bridgers’ eyes closed as well, seemingly taking in the song and expanse of the open theater before her. “Would You Rather” sent everyone in the space swaying, eyes closed to the innocence and somber that her vocals portrayed.   


Following the earnest singer was main event band, The National, who’s rock synergies played at contrast to Bridgers’; an older brother taking the lead from his sister sort of contrast. While the band is literally made of brothers (twins Bryce and Aaron Dessner and brothers Bryan and Scott Devendor), the family resemblance of their songs is a different beast. The indie/alt. group from Cincinnati has maintained an originality feat that other rock bands fail at with their 2017 album release, Sleep Well Beast – an ode to things sane and insane. Matt Berninger, the only member without a brother as a bandmate, disrupts the stage with his wild rocker energy that ripples through the crowd. I cling on to each raw note, my eyes wide open this time at the fantastical light that is before me. My calmed chords from Bridgers are snapped into excitement with the low, ragged voice of Berninger. It’s a stimulating experience to say the least and as I leave the Santa Barbara air, now black and alive with the finale’s notes still reverberating in the aura, my senses tingle, waiting until the next time they too can feel alive.   

Photographed by Nicole Busch