Phoebe Bridgers is arguably one of the more popular “sad girl” indie folk singer-songwriters today. Across her albums, “Stranger in the Alps” and “Punisher,” respectively, she features boggling and profoundly specific lyrics that resonate strongly with many. Her music serves as an outlet for listeners, especially for those dealing with major life episodes who may relate to her poetically cynical, yet inimitable, lyrics about life’s highs and lows.
Occurring in between Austin City Limits Music Festival’s weekend performances, this concert, part of her “Reunion Tour,” took place on Oct. 8 at Stubb's Wallercreek Amphitheater in Austin, a smaller, intimate outdoor venue connected to Stubb's Bar-B-Q restaurant. This venue allowed for a considerably smaller audience than her Austin City Limits performances, with only a few hundred fans, or “pharbz,” grouped around the stage.
Bridgers’ opening act, Gracie Abrams, daughter of film director J.J. Abrams, bore a strikingly similar sound to singer-songwriter Lorde, and maintained a radiant stage presence. Despite not having engaged with her music before the performance, her bedroom pop sound and distinct talent kept the audience loud and engaged with her act. She treated the crowd by ending her set with a few unreleased songs, before lightheartedly announcing, “Now I’m going to get the f*** off this stage, because I want to see Phoebe perform,” priming the audience for the main act.
A few minutes after 11 p.m., the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” resonated from the speakers as the darkened stage became agitated with movement while Phoebe and her band set up, clad in skeleton costumes. Moments later, the overhead lights dimmed, the venue erupted and iPhone cameras shot up in the air as Phoebe came into view, the red stage lights illuminating her platinum blonde hair and signature black outfit. The opening chords of “Motion Sickness,” her breakout song from her debut album, were strummed and the energy of the venue was instantly transformed from one of anticipation to buzzing elation.
Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of the performance was the lack of conversation between Phoebe and the audience, especially considering the performance took place in a comparably smaller setting than the rest of the tour. Most of her discourse between herself and the audience consisted of amusing banter informing the audience of the meaning of her songs, such as when she introduced the song “Kyoto,” by saying, “This song is dedicated to people who have had to deal with [Child Protective Services],” due to the song’s nature being about experiencing parental divorce, and, “This is our Coldplay song, except it’s about how God doesn’t exist,” before singing “Chinese Satellite.”
Phoebe ensured to accentuate the melancholic tones of her somber songs, particularly in the second half of the show with “Halloween,” “Moon Song,” “Savior Complex,” “Funeral,” “ICU” and after many bellowing fan requests, “Georgia” from her debut album, which she said she initially didn’t plan to perform because it was full of “dramatic yearning.” Bridgers’ silvery voice was even more so live, and the pain and passion behind the songs are particularly sharp when hearing her in person.
The climax of the show was during her last three songs, starting with “Graceland Too,” her live instrumentalists stealing the show, particularly the banjo and trumpet. The crowd screamed the song’s TikTok-famous lyrics, “So she knows she lived through it / To get to this moment,” allowing for an intimate moment between those who strongly relate to the lyric to pervade the venue.
Phoebe fervently raised her voice to belt the lyric, “Man I hate this part of Texas,” the second line in the last song of her main set, the closing track of her “Punisher” album: “I Know the End.”
As an Aggie in Austin, I playfully raised my voice to chant it with her. On a more serious note, in light of the current climate surrounding Texas’ abortion ban, this lyric was far more substantial to Phoebe and her fans, including myself, than it’s original meaning — a playful joke about touring in Europe. Seconds before singing this song, Phoebe announced, “I feel like this is a safe space — f*** Greg Abbott,” referring to the recent abortion ban, resulting in cheers of agreement from the predominantly female crowd.
After a lengthy and lively guitar solo and recognizing her band members, Phoebe exited the stage. Several minutes of the crowd chanting in request for an encore went by before she came back onto stage in a fan’s glimmering cowboy hat she picked up mid-show. The lights turned blue as she announced, “This is a cover. All proceeds will go to the Texas Abortion Funds,” and started playing her cover of Bo Burnham’s “That Funny Feeling,” from his Netflix special “Inside,”which she released on Spotify just days earlier.
Phoebe Bridgers’ live concert was a melancholic and healing experience. Her voice somehow sounds more melodic and vibrant live. Singing along to somber lyrics that are personable to you with hundreds of other strangers who also resonate with Bridgers’ words is an astonishingly vulnerable experience that refreshes your soul and reminds you that no matter who you are, where you are, you’ll get through it to get to your moment.