Having previously paid a visit to The Piece Hall only a week ago to see Limp Bizkit triumph in Halifax, it’s safe to say expectations were high for the subsequent week. As part of a summer series of concerts, boygenius – consisting of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker – graced the venue for their second night in a row, marking one of their six UK dates, including stops in London, Scotland, and Ireland.
The evening began with the already highly acclaimed Ethel Cain who effortlessly immersed the evening in that unique blend of melancholy and hope that the collective soul finds so nourishing.
The setlist for boygenius was masterfully commenced after the PA finished blasting out Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town (The Boys being the affectionate group nickname given to tonight’s act by fans) with a hair-raising rendition of “Without You Without Them” performed off stage that saw the trio bring the gorgeous harmonies we’ve become so familiar with on the record to life. A bold and brave way to start a show that had just a touch of a “yeah, we can actually do that live” flaunt about it. From there and as expected the night spanned their collective catalogue from Phoebe’s evocative “Graceland Too” to Julien’s touching rendition of “Favor” and a giggle interrupted “Leonard Cohen” from Lucy.
Phoebe, positioned stage left, with Lucy at stage right and Julien owning the center, were complemented by a talented ensemble of female musicians, creating an empowering tableau of women in music who were warmly introduced and greeted by the crowd leading into “Bite The Hand“.
Addressing the crowd early on Phoebe ascertained that a fair number of tonight’s attendees were also present the previous night and to this contingent she admitted “it’s going to be totally the same“, “we’re literally playing our entire discography. We’d love to surprise you if we could.” No one seemed disappointed by this spoiler anyway.
Visually, boygenius kept it refreshingly authentic as always. The band donned personalized bomber-style jackets adorned with patches, not just as a style statement, but symbolic of their individual journeys and influences. And as light rain drizzled, it seemed nature itself was participating in the evening’s melancholic overtones.
The audience was packed with parents accompanying young teenagers to what very well could have been their first gig, an experience that has changed since we were that age when gig tickets were affordable with just our pocket money and if you were lucky someone’s dad would agree to pick you all up at the end. But with today’s ticket prices and additional merch costs, this evolving dynamic makes sense. Besides the family units an older, more weathered gig going audience come along too (like ourselves) who simply have a genuine appreciation towards the musical output of the trio.
A notable LGBTQ+ presence is complimented by a pop-up stand supporting local pride events and tonight, like the music on offer, is a safe, accepting and welcoming space.
It’s not just the melodies that struck a chord tonight. boygenius stands as pillars of inspiration for many. Their lyrics offer solace, understanding, and a platform for emotions that resonate with fans across age groups. Their stand against injustice, their challenge to societal expectations, and their advocacy for authenticity are manifest in every element of their art – from the songs they pen to the clothes they wear.
Breaking norms, Ethel Cain’s choice of an oversized hoodie and baggy jeans, or boygenius’s suits and long school-type skirts, challenge conventional expectations of femininity in music. Phoebe’s recent bold move in Belgium was not about appeasing the audience, but about owning her identity – a punk rock statement in its purest form. For the parents in attendance, we think they’d be pretty happy to have these women as role models for their kids. Even if they drop the occasional f-bomb. There’s plenty worse out there.
From the ear piercing sound of the ecstatic screams and squeals that met each interlude it was absolutely obvious to us that for the majority of the crowd, they’ve found their idols in this admirable trio.