Way back when it was cool to wear chipped blue nail polish, neon-laced Converse and ill-fitted floral skater dresses, I saw Fun. in my hometown of St. Louis. I’d like to spare you my melodrama and all the feelings that night brought me, but Fun. blew my freaking mind. I felt like I was being let in on this big secret, like I was seeing something I shouldn’t have — something too free, too wild and too genuine.
Five years and many poor fashion choices later, I saw Bleachers, the brainchild of Fun.’s former guitarist Jack Antonoff.
Before delving into Antonoff’s set, it’s worth noting opener Muna, whose spunk brought a sparkling welcome to the party ahead. I wasn’t familiar with them before the concert, and the rest of the crowd didn’t seem all that familiar either, but the three women (guitarists Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson with lead singer Katie Gavin) played their electropop, and everyone was into it. They had a gradual groove, knowing when and where to dial their energy. Before ending their set, they acknowledged the ladies from Planned Parenthood and the Ally Coalition, who had been chatting with the crowd before the show started. The entire evening had this awareness behind it — a subtle reminder to be kind and love well.
Then, bounding onto the stage, Bleachers quickly followed. Opening with “Shadow,” a track from their 2014 album Strange Desire, Antonoff was effervescent, shooting out a spark of energy that sizzled through everyone the rest of the night. I don’t think even he understands what happens to his body when he sings — the melodies vibrate through him, sending his arms into a frantic haze around his torso. It’s magnetic, and his talent is evident. People weren’t just there for the music; they were there for him.
The crowd was on a high from Antonoff’s vibrancy as he blazed through a few firecrackers from newly-released album Gone Now. Accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Evan Smith on the saxophone and guitarist Mikey Freedom Hart, he led into “Everybody Lost Somebody,” the fifth track from Gone Now, early in his set. And let me tell you, it was a slow burn.
It’s painful pop — so deliriously packed with punch you don’t even realize you’re pouring salt on an open wound. The saxophone was so smooth; the lyrics so sorrowful. There was a sense of togetherness I’ve never experienced at a live show before. Everyone felt what Antonoff was singing because he dwelt in this instance of accepting pain, not improving it. He doesn’t try to clean up your mess — he lives it with you.
The night had this tone to it — a blind trust in “just because.” Sometimes faith just works. There’s no rhyme or reason, there’s just a because. St. Louis has been through so much over the past few years. Everyone has. But it gets better, just because.
So we danced. Jack asked St. Louis to marry him, and we accepted for the night, knowing he must say that to all the cities but liking the attention anyway. He grooved through “Foreign Girls,” and “Rollercoaster,” never letting us fall into the glazed lull that usually settles in halfway through a set.
Deep into our collective euphoria, once the applause faded, and the stage lights stopped blinding me in their oscillation, everything stopped. The band stepped back, and all of a sudden it was just us and Jack. It was one of those instances that I’ll probably never forget, but I wish I could recall more clearly. He started strumming Fun.’s 2012 hit, “Carry On,” and all I remember thinking is that I needed to cry. It was like in movies, when moments freeze, and all you see are specks of dust floating around. The crowd swayed, but it felt like time stood still.
Standing there, with my gal Nicole (who was also at the 2012 Fun. concert with me), I felt this strange sadness come over the night. The crowd turned somber, everyone’s pain and heartache hanging in the sticky air, no longer clouded by new wave infused indie-pop. The song was fleeting, and it ended just as quickly as it began. And for whatever reason, we all felt the smallest bit healed. Just because.
Raising us from our own ashes, Antonoff started in on Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” and everyone just about lost their minds because my goodness, this was a special night, and my goodness, Stevie Nicks.
Winding down the evening without losing the oomph that catapulted everyone through his set, Antonoff eventually closed out with Bleachers’s newest single, “Don’t Take the Money.” The crowd sang every word with him, somehow unanimously arm-pumping and head-bobbing through the track.
The set was perfect and uninhibited and absolutely absurd. Bleachers is well-deserving of the gradual hype they’re acquiring, and Antonoff is a serious gem. He’s a do-gooder, and he’s wildly talented, making the night the big party no one realized they were craving. The crowd was raw, he ran with it, and it worked. Just because.