Phoebe Bridgers‘ music wasn’t designed for big stages. Her voice is as intimate as can be, often breathy and hushed, its delicacy providing a foil for her often funny, sharp, and poignant lyrics. But, as two sold-out nights at the Greek in her hometown of Los Angeles can attest — as well as near-immediate sellouts at similar venues across the country — large venues are where she’ll find herself for the conceivable future. But when everyone is on your side, even the largest spaces can feel like a living room, with Bridgers’ devoted fanbase turning the Greek into a safe space for laughter, tears, and lots of singing on Thursday night.
It’s all a testament to what Bridgers has built over the last five years. These fans didn’t fall out of the sky, they have been drawn through a steady stream of both solo work and group offerings with Boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center. The worldview she shares, both in her music and on her very active — and very good — social media platforms, advocates for decency and goodness in the music biz, as well as in the world at large. It’s the kind of stuff that’s contagious, and surrounded by more than 6000 like-minded people can feel almost intoxicating. When Bridgers looks out into the crowd and sees fans shouting back her words, you can tell that the majesty of the experience is still not lost on her. She can’t hide her smiles — you can tell she’s as blown away as the audience.
As a concert, Phoebe Bridgers is more than just doing justice to her pair of great albums, Stranger In The Alps and Punisher. She’s presenting them in a fully realized state, with a robust backing band that can often expand on her spare album arrangements. Her most full-band-sounding work, be it “Motion Sickness” or “ICU” or “Kyoto,” thrives under such conditions, but even a more gentle tune like “Graceland Too” can feel like its unlocking new dimensions in its widescreen glory. In short, Bridgers is easily slotting into a tradition of indie greats that came before her, that moved to big rooms with comfort. The sturdiness of her songwriting is holding up to the new challenges.
But the lasting emotions that come from seeing Phoebe Bridgers at this moment aren’t really about the performance or the songs or even Bridgers. It’s the community she’s cultivated. Certainly, her fans are not a monolith and range from grandparents to children, but it’s hard not to notice the young women who flocked to the show. Many came in groups, dressed in their own skeleton costumes or Bridgers’ distinct fashion sensibilities, with the wide-eyed wonder of a five-year-old on their first trip to Disneyland. The merch lines were massive and joyous, masks were worn proudly and respectfully, the eventual Black Eyed Peas entrance music cueing thousands to acknowledge how good of a night they were all about to have. I was reminded of similar young fanbases that I’d witness absolutely losing their shit at Lorde and BTS shows over the last several years, where you’d almost feel like an outsider — if they weren’t so damn welcoming — and if their enthusiasm wasn’t so inspiring.
Go to enough shows over enough years and it’s easy to understand how special the Phoebe Bridgers fanbase is. It’s not common to feel such support and positivity, so much so that it rubs off on you, that your faith in the world can be boosted, if at least temporarily. Gestures like shining your phone light in the air or clapping along to the beat or screaming the conclusion of “I Know The End” feel like no one else had ever thought to do that at a concert — like you’re witnessing the invention of the wheel in real-time. Often, observing the reaction to the music was as captivating as the music itself, like when “I Know The End” begins its tempo shift and groups of young fans started locking arms and sharing knowing, beaming grins in the anticipation of the grande finale.
The next night, I was driving through Los Feliz when Bridgers’ second Greek show was getting out, and the streets were crawling with teenagers in skeleton costumes. It was undoubtedly frightening to those not in-the-know, but for those that got it, it was a quick reminder of how bright the future can be, of what good hands we’re in with Phoebe Bridgers leading the charge.