Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The boys are back in Boston: boygenius takes over MGM Music Hall

Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Pheobe Bridgers hit the stage for night two
Courtesy of MGM Music Hall Facebook page.

Excitement builds in the air as fans hurry into the merch lines that sprawl out on multiple floors. There’s a readiness through every inch of the venue for the start of the show. The opener, Palehound, delivers an electrifying performance that only heightens the anticipation. It’s the second show of boygenius’s two-night run at the MGM Music Hall in Boston. The second night was not part of the original tour announcement and had to be added when night one quickly sold out; night two also ended up selling out. The group’s two nights in Boston kicked off the exclusive East Coast leg of the tour. Announced back in July, this leg is considered the final leg of ”the tour” which will culminate at the Hollywood Bowl in Phoebe Bridgers’s native Los Angeles. The final leg of the tour is coming off a short break after a month in Europe and a summer tour headlining along with independent dates.

The previous night had a surprise appearance from Hozier for a performance of “Salt in the Wound.” boygenius also announced a new extended play set to release on Oct. 13th called “the rest.” The new EP will expand upon the group’s debut album, “the record,” that came out in late March of this year. Night one in Boston had only built up enthusiasm about what to expect from the rest of the tour.

For the entirety of boygenius’s tour, a land acknowledgement has predicated every performance. Night two was no different. Jean-Luc Pierite, the president of the North American Indian Center of Boston gave a land acknowledgment of the Massachusett and Pawtucket land where MGM Music Hall resides. About ten minutes later, boygenius’s backing band comes on stage to “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy. Then, the room goes dark and the soft crooning of “Without You Without Them” begins; the group projected rom backstage. Immediately after the song ends, everyone rises as the heavy guitars and drums of “$20” blares through the room and “the boys” — as the fans affectionately call Lucy Dacus, Pheobe Bridgers and Julien Baker — are running on stage. The trio is wearing their patched jackets, every patch a reference to the owner and the band. The patches have become an important symbol of the band; the tradition dates to the black blazers of the initial boygenius EP, a consistent thread since the group’s coalescence. It’s also a physical imprint of the band’s unison.

As Julien Baker delivers the outro of “20,” Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus kneel down together to play out their guitar parts. There’s a smooth transition into “Satanist”; At the lyrics “and kill the bourgeois,” the room screams in unison with Baker standing up on a stage box to vigorously nod her head along with the crowd. A red light that had lit up the stage for the first two songs turns to green for “Emily, I’m Sorry” and then the stage is soaked in blue for “True Blue.” A colorful grainy filter on the video plays on the screen playing behind them. The video projected perfectly captures the ambience and a nostalgia recollected in the song.

“$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry” and “True Blue” were the first three singles released from the record and make up the band’s first music video, “the film.” Concluding the first act, the band takes a break to address the audience for the first time. All three members discuss their histories performing in Boston and gratitude for the city’s continued support of their respective solo careers. They carry on with some stage banter from the previous night concerning the Berklee School of Music. Bridgers emphasizes the importance of not needing a college degree to play music and at one point Baker says, “We’re your college advisors, boygenius,” eliciting laughter from the crowd. Transitioning to “Cool About It,” Bridgers and Baker do their ceremonial stage lunge before beginning the song. On the screen, as the boys harmonize, their faces are projected next to each other in a black and white filter.

Baker begins to play “Souvenir,” but her strumming slows and abruptly stops as she asks, “Why is this the gay song?” Fans in the pit section had been waving pride flags rapidly at the start of the song. A fan project had been devised to wave the flags at the beginning of “Souvenir”; fan projects aren’t new to boygenius concerts, and the appreciation from the group only grows with each one. The band asks the crowd some questions about the project before redirecting their attention back to playing. During Baker’s verse, Dacus collects three pride flags from the crowd and puts them one in front of each member’s mic. When Dacus gets to her verse of “Souvenir,” she sings, “Do you hate what you see?” There’s a pause before the next line and the room goes silent with her. Such a silence between song lines is a growing trend in fan and performer interactions at concerts, like what we’ve seen with Beyonce’s “Energy” and Taylor Swift’s “Dress.” It is a passive recognition of the relationship between fan, artist and lyric.

The heavy drums of “Bite the Hand” elicit the crowd’s enthusiasm. Then, the room glows with beautiful lighting that rotates around the room for “Revolution 0.” With a couple of the songs through the night, there were subtle note and instrumental changes, but on “Revolution 0” there was a clear extended guitar and drum set at the end of the song. It replaced the lighter drums originally heard on “the record.” During this extended instrumental, Bridgers went up to play her guitar alongside Melina Duterte, the bassist and player of various instruments for the group who also played on “the record,” and Sarah Goldstein, the band’s keyboard player.

The next song, “Leonard Cohen,” marks the end of the second arc of the show. The next three songs that boygenius plays are all from their solo discographies. Though solo songs, all members are involved in each song. Lucy Dacus starts with her song “Please Stay” from her third album, “Home Video,” which features Baker and Bridgers backing vocals. There’s a somber mood in the room as the crowd goes quiet and listens attentively to every word. “Favor” by Julien Baker from her third album, “Little Oblivions,” is next, also featuring Bridgers and Dacus on backing vocals. Phoebe Bridgers rounds out the trio with “Graceland Too” from her second album, “Punisher,” in which — you guessed it — Dacus and Baker provide backing vocals on this song. In this song’s performance, Dacus heads to play the keyboard as keyboard player and Sarah Goldstein moves to play violin for the song.

As noted, boygenius had announced their new ep, “the rest,” the previous night in Boston. They previewed some verses of “Blackhole” from the ep during night one. For night two, they announce that they’ll be singing another song from “the rest,” “Afraid of Heights.” The room is cloaked in purple as Lucy Dacus takes lead on the song.

The boys make a small request at the beginning of “Me and My Dog,” to have the audience hold up pictures of their dogs during the verse when the dog is first mentioned in the song. It brings a lightheartedness to the room during a heart-wrenching song. The mood in the room lightens up a bit as “We’re in Love” starts. It begins the run of the concert that will cover the last three tracks of the record. Between the first and second verse of the song, Lucy heads over to pick up some carnations that fans have brought. Soft piano notes transition into heavy drums and guitar for “Anticurse.” The song reverberates through the room along with the accented red lights brightening the stage.

In the final verse, Baker continues her live lyric change of the song: “To the worst love song you’ve ever heard / Soundin’ out the foreign characters” becomes “To the worst best love song you’ve ever heard / Soundin’ out the familiar characters.” The live lyric changes created a new iteration for the song and heightens the emotion already present. Next, Bridgers asks the crowd to put away their phones for “Letter to an Old Poet.” She sings into the crowd and the crowd sings back trying to hold the heaviness of the song with her. Ending the show with the final tracks of “the record” mirrors the show’s opening with the first songs of the album.

“Not Strong Enough” features TV sets running static added to the stage. There’s a fervor that builds in the room as the instrumentals to the fan-favorite song begins to play. The passion of the fans blasts out during the bridge “Always an angel, never a god.” An unseen camaraderie rushes in the venue from a lyric that has captured fandom since its release. After the song, the boys leave momentarily before coming back out to deliver their encore. “Ketchum, ID” is the penultimate song of the night. The crowd is encouraged to sing the last verse of the song with the band before the energetic height of “Salt in the Wound” ends the night. The final song doesn’t disappoint, with Dacus and Bridgers crowd surfing.

The show ends on the high that it began with. With a group that can sing their entire discography and more, boygenius gives you everything that they can. They don’t hold back on the intimacy of their songs and choose to share their thoughts with the crowd and each other. Despite playing these songs live multiple times, there’s still a continued passion present within the group. They play into the emotions of the song rather than pulling away. The changing video filters and lighting aid in guiding what the group wants you to focus on: the individual stories that are these songs. Whether you relate to the lyrics or not, a boygenius show keeps you engaged with the narratives being performed. The electricity of instrumentals and imagery of language recreate the background of the songs inviting fans to partake in every live performance.

Suzanne Bagia can be reached at [email protected].

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