Review: Phoebe Bridgers at Echo Beach, June 7, 2022

Wow. I needed that. I really, really needed that. After 27 months and six days of pandemic-induced concert abstinence, I finally got to a live show. And Phoebe Bridgers was the perfect artist to ease me back in.

Normally I prefer higher-energy acts, but something about Bridgers’ mournful voice and impeccable songwriting, with just enough of a subversive vibe, really sinks its laid-back claws into me. And that more sedate atmosphere is what I needed to get me back into the live-show groove.

That being said, you’d think it was Woodstock ‘99 and Fred Durst was encouraging people to throw stuff and set fires considering the number of times she had to stop mid-song because someone up front needed a medic. Three times! I mean, good on her for being a conscientious headliner and looking out for her fans. But what were these people up to? I can’t imagine anyone is slam dancing to a song called “Funeral.” Regardless, to her credit, every time she stopped a song, she restarted it from the top. [Edit: Not to make light of any injuries here. I’ve since heard some people fainted and there was a terrible scene when the gates were opened.]

Am I the biggest Phoebe Bridgers fan in the world? No. Unlike the hundreds of mostly young women joyously singing every word, I’m more of a casual fan. But the show was all I hoped it would be and more. She played everything I wanted to hear, even dedicating “Kyoto,” my favourite song of hers, to all the dads, which was pretty spot-on for me. Her voice was just as strong and mournful and crystal clear as it is on record, and the band was super tight, filling the mild lakeside air with shimmering guitars, piercing trumpet and subtle drums that thumped just when the song needed it. I forgot how much I missed that kick drum vibration in my chest. Aaaah.

The last song before a one-song solo acoustic encore was “I Know the End,” the closer of her latest album, Punisher. I almost wish she didn’t bother with the encore because that song was a perfect ending. Behind Bridgers, an animation of a burning shack was projected as the song came to its cacophonous climax, lead guitar and trumpet wailing in a wall of sound not heard previously in the set, as if all the mournful angst of the previous songs was being purged in a celebration of sound. And that’s the energy I hope to recapture the next time I emerge from pandemic hiding and see a live show. I’m ready for that energy.

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