SHOWS // Phoebe Bridgers @ El Rey Theater

Post by Misha

Phoebe Bridgers makes beautiful music for aloneness. I like to listen to her often melancholy, always profoundly intimate songs in headphones with no one else around and I wondered a little trepidatiously how the experience would change in a crowded venue, jostling teenagers with plastic cups of beer for a better view. But Bridgers’ live performance is every bit as immediate as her record and draws a connective power from the music to unite listeners in a deeply collective aloneness.


The first thing I noticed was that the 23-year-old singer songwriter had a lot of friends in the audience – the El Rey being a hometown show – and the anticipation and pride in the room was palpable. She began with three songs from her recently released debut album, Stranger In The Alps, and then played a cut from her 3-song 2016 EP, Killer. The crowd knew every word. There were a couple of girls next to me whispering speculatively between songs about which mutual acquaintances had inspired various songs.

She brought up a rotating cast of young guys, all seemingly old friends, to sing harmony and called them her “three boyfriends.” One of them had to leave mid show (“to make a sale on Craigslist,” Bridgers explained). A deep and easy familiarity came over the theater, the kind that happens when you settle in back home after a long time of being away.


But it wasn’t until Bridgers played Funeral that I knew it was going to be a really great show. The song, about attending a friend’s funeral, has always hit home with me, having grappled myself with the sudden death of a friend. But something about hearing it live. The music just took up all the space in my body, even the deep pockets that I usually reserve for anxiety, fatigue, and despair. And looking around I saw it everywhere – a sea of faces stepping out from under their losses for a song.

After Funeral, Bridgers picked up her electric guitar and the night took off some of its weight. She joked about driving to her mom’s house after the show to do laundry and how her song Motion Sickness is like “if you slept with Biff from Back To The Future and you had to live with that forever.” But despite the jokes there’s something in her music that makes space for grief and hopelessness in a very generous way. The communal habitation of that space makes her show unforgettable.

Buy Stranger In The Alps here. Phoebe Bridgers is currently on tour with Noah Gundersen, dates here. For LA folks, she’ll be back in the city of angels next month with a show at The Lodge Room December 16. 


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