On the drive towards Indio, through the Coachella Valley, boygenius stare down at you from the side of the road. “Not strong enough?” the trio silently ask, leaning on each other as they hold their mock-lawyer ad stances. At first glance, it’s just a silly billboard poster to pique excitement for tonight (April 15), their first Coachella appearance and first proper gig. But as Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker perform, it feels more like an invitation to find strength with the buzzy supergroup.
The sun has set and weary festival goers are sprawled across the grass in front of the Outdoor Theatre as Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ blasts through the speakers. Instead of bounding out to greet their crowd immediately, boygenius hang back, wait until the song is done and then begin from the side of stage. Huddled around one microphone, they sing in beautiful harmony ‘Without You Without Them’, the opening song from their debut album ‘the record’. It’s a moment that sets the tone for the rest of the show – the three musicians always united, even if they’re spread across the stage.
For the opening songs – ‘$20’, ‘Satanist’, ‘True Blue’ – the background behind the band looks like an industrial warehouse, while the big screens either side are adorned with tongue-in-cheek “tough” graphics, like a loop of barbed wire that frames the members’ faces. Later, the brick backdrop fades away, replaced by golden lights that shine through often more tender songs.
In the latter camp is ‘We’re In Love’, which sees Baker and Bridgers climb up onto raised steps at the back of the stage, the former sitting behind a piano at the top and the latter taking her place one step below with her guitar. Dacus begins the song, which shares insecurities and longings, from the centre of the stage but quickly goes to join her bandmates higher up.
Lyrically, ‘the record’ is full of intense emotions and seeing boygenius bring them to life on stage is all the more impactful; like that punch in the stomach Bridgers sings of in ‘Letter To An Old Poet’. But, instead of leaving you feeling triggered and bereft from your own personal trauma the songs remind you of, the band have a way of making you feel comforted. They barely say a word on stage, but seeing these women turn their own experiences into such a moving, flawless performance is like them throwing their arms around you and letting you lean on them, just like the billboard poster.
When they do take a moment to speak, it’s to deliver an important message – and another kind of support. “I don’t know if you’ve seen the tomfoolery that’s been going on in Florida and Missouri and some of the other places, but trans lives matter, trans kids matter,” Dacus tells the crowd to big cheers. “We’re going to fight it and we’re going to win.”
Before they continue with the music, Bridgers adds an extra point. “And abortion rocks, and fuck [Florida governor] Ron DeSantis.”
A few songs later, ‘Not Strong Enough’ begins, bright guitars spooling through the PA. “I don’t know why, I am / The way I am / Not strong enough to be your man,” they sing as the chorus hits. Tonight, though, boygenius are pillars tough enough for themselves, each other, and all of Coachella, inadvertently forming the best support group around.
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