There is a certain kind of magic that happens when women’s voices fuse together ― it’s always spiritual even if the listener isn’t, a joyful noise made unto the congregation no matter what the circumstances. While I wouldn’t call the collection of people at The Majestic Theatre on Sunday a church, with their nose rings and shearling jackets and well-worn band t-shirts, we were all there to have some experience of beauty, and that we definitely got. The three artists that form boygenius — Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker — all took the stage with equal power, their voices ringing through the audience alone and then together. Though it was dark and crowded in the venue, with the fans whirring and heat blasting, the moments that hung in the air throughout each artist’s set were worth our heavy breath. The neon signs on the walls glowed in the darkness, but they could have easily been stained glass. Purity and soul were woven into every melody like a hymn, a naked baring of all three souls through the stories of their lives.
The first artist to play was Lucy Dacus, a quiet brunette whose underlying power as a musician may not seem obvious at first, but makes sense as soon as she opens her mouth. Dacus was technically the opener, but her shorter set left the audience satisfied — each one of her songs sprawls across five or six minutes at least, constantly in flux between different movements. On songs like “Night Shift” and “I Don’t Want to Be Funny Anymore,” those that put her on the map of indie rock, Dacus’s raw soul came through in every note. The audience hung onto every lyric exiting her painted-red lips, jumping and whooping as each song came to its climax in a thumping crescendo of guitar and drums. The songwriter’s truest talent is hidden beneath her low and smooth voice, but emerges when the crowd gets loud; she’s a secret rock star, one of a new generation that is bringing soul back into the genre with honest narratives of love and loss.
As Dacus left the stage to huge applause, the audience waited for the next chanteuse to appear. The crowd buzzed excitedly as the mic was draped in fairy lights, a signature set piece of Phoebe Bridgers that only added to the cozy mood of the show. Bridgers stepped into the light with an almost alien beauty, her silvery platinum hair held back by a black headband and cascading down her shoulders. The concert’s feel was never funerary despite the black outfits of all three artists; instead, it was merely a blank canvas for their voices to stretch over like paint, as the audience’s attention was drawn only to their faces, contorted and smiling through each song. Bridgers’s performance of her debut LP Stranger in the Alps was truly something to be reckoned with. Her live skills mirror the beauty of her studio work almost exactly, the only differences found in the grand scale of her stage presence. A cover of Gillian Welch’s “Everything is Free” performed with drummer Marshall Vore punctuated her set with a melancholy note, supporting her original songs with the wistful words of the past. The Majestic holds over 600 people, but it felt like she was singing directly to every audience member as a personal conversation, mulling over her own life with ease and the class of an artist beyond her years.
Julien Baker then closed out the solo sets of the show with a bang, a Telecaster and a whole lotta soul. Seeing Baker live feels like you’re at a magic show — it’s hard to believe such a big sound can come out of such an unassuming and petite person, but this illusion didn’t last for long. As soon as she walked up to the mic, the crowd would have been stupid to think something big wasn’t about to happen. Even her small stature and general shyness on stage can’t hide the stage presence that Baker carries with her everywhere, a diamond beneath long blonde-brown hair and her understated banter between songs. She began with the song that made her a household name, “Sprained Ankle,” immediately proving herself to the crowd as a powerhouse and riding that wave through a succession of similarly perfect tunes. Baker’s melodies are high and moving, accompanied by a performance of thrown-back heads and interjecting shouts that let the audience know how much she really loves making her music. The passion that all three artists have for their work was palpable throughout the entire four-hour set, making the long-haul stand worth every ache of the morning after.
The three solo sets of the night were stunning, but the real magic of last Sunday lay when Baker, Bridgers and Dacus joined together to perform their EP as boygenius. It honestly seems like they were born to play music with one another, like siblings or sirens waiting in the water. Their allure is most obvious in the measured vulnerability of each member’s decisions to shine or support ― all of them are stars alone, but their respect for each other leads to a cohesive group that allows everyone to soar and simmer in different ways. Bridgers’s stunning belt on “Me and My Dog” was countered by her quiet harmonies on “Souvenir,” and the same goes for both Baker and Dacus on other tracks. Watching the three interact on stage was like looking onto a family telling stories after dinner, as they shared in their musical similarities and differences to create a woven quilt of soft folk, anthemic rock and a pointed clarity that only comes from groups with natural chemistry. The last song of the show was an acoustic version of “Ketchum, ID” that took the crowd’s breath away in an instant ― boygenius decided to go without microphones and instead asked the audience to join them in singing along, which resulted in one of the most moving concert experiences I’ve ever had. The harmonies of the crowd became a dysfunctional choir for a moment, as hundreds of voices rose to meet the group in the middle. It was almost as if we were praying together, celebrating music in the way that only those who really love it can do.