A swooning delirium is constructing as Swifties and metalheads alike congregate in West London for EthelMunaGenius, because the occasion has turn into recognized on-line. To see simply how devoted a fanbase has gathered there, you solely need to forged your gaze to the merch stand the place, for the primary half of the day, the queue stretches again a lot additional than any queues for the bars or bogs.
Boygenius – the Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus supergroup – have curated a line-up of their favorite artists to take over the park for the day; Irish singer-songwriter Soak, Southern Gothic alt-icon Ethel Cain and euphoric queer pop band MUNA. The music of Boygenius is fraught with self-loathing, heartache and despair, however this is able to be exhausting to know should you rewatched their set with the sound turned off, or glimpsed one of many many TikToks circulating within the days following the occasion.
The boys, as followers affectionately name them, appear like they’re having a lot enjoyable onstage, whether or not they’re rocking out or making out. Within the crowd, finest buddies sway hand in hand sporting t-shirts they lovingly DIY’d collectively particularly for immediately. They flip to one another, tears swelling of their eyes, as songs like ‘Cool About It’ or ‘Me & My Canine’ attain their most gut-wrenching traces. Whether or not onstage or within the viewers, the present is a shifting testomony to the ability of feminine friendship and platonic love. “It wasn’t like falling in love,” Bridgers not too long ago advised Rolling Stone about assembly her Boygenius bandmates. “It was falling in love.”
Our preliminary concepts about love are sometimes shaped by the pop songs we listened to rising up. Most of the time, they depict a craving and all-consuming heterosexual romantic love. Pronouns almost all the time confer with the alternative intercourse and we’re advised that friendships matter lower than falling in love. Whereas Boygenius definitely have their justifiable share of craving, heartbroken love songs, in addition they wax poetic concerning the platonic loves of their lives. After they play ‘True Blue’, Dacus’ love tune for her bandmates, the perfect buddies in matching t-shirts increase their fingers within the air bathed in blue gentle.
We’ve been blessed with a staggering quantity of emotive, introspective singer-songwriters in recent times. From Mitski’s ruminations on love and loss to Lorde’s suburban angst and Billie Eilish’s moody introspection, our starvation for the style is seemingly endless. Many of those artists, together with Bridgers, have spoken out about despising the reductive ‘unhappy woman’ label usually ascribed to their music. Their work explores a textured map of feelings that attain past unhappiness, however upon first pay attention, Boygenius lyrics are shaded with indisputably melancholy tones.
A 2019 studyanalysing over 50 years price of tune lyrics from 1965 to 2015 discovered that phrases related to detrimental feelings considerably elevated over that point interval whereas descriptors of optimistic emotions noticeably decreased. And if issues felt bleak in 2015, they really feel even bleaker now. Boygenius didn’t launch their first album till 2018, however they joined the custom of songwriters delving into their darkest ideas for lyrical materials.
But the Gunnersbury Park present reveals that singing about detrimental feelings extra usually isn’t essentially a foul factor. Youngsters in old-fashioned ties and Ethel Cain followers in prairie clothes come collectively to sing loudly to songs they could have cried alone to in darkish bedrooms, becoming a member of a refrain of 1000’s in songs exploring unhappiness, nervousness and melancholy and, in doing so, reaching a state of catharsis. Sing loud sufficient amid a 25,000-strong crowd and people emotions evaporate till you’re simply left with connection.
Generally it may be exhausting for artists with slower songs to command such huge areas with out shedding a way of intimacy that these deeply emotional tracks deserve. Sure sections do really feel higher suited to smaller venues, however when Bridgers asks the group to place their telephones away throughout “Letter To An Previous Poet” – written about “one of many darkest durations of my grownup life” – everybody miraculously obeys. In these moments, everyone seems to be transfixed and also you virtually neglect that so many individuals are there.
Different moments really feel deservedly large. When fireworks explode throughout the late summer time evening sky, MUNA be part of them and each bands run riotously throughout the stage, beaming and kissing one another as “Salt In The Wound” reaches its clashing crescendo. It appears like a launch of any pent up unhappiness that’s nonetheless lingering, like ripping off the bandaid to see that the wound has healed beneath. Their first ever London present may simply mark the start of true Boygenius world domination, however most of all, it confirmed simply how particular a day could be when the band themselves curate a lineup that resonates with their followers, particularly once they select a number of the most fun younger queer singer-songwriters developing proper now.
As followers trudge slowly again to Acton City, reasonably than pushing or speeding to get to the station, a quiet feeling of awe descends over the group as if underneath an enduring spell. Pals and lovers are nonetheless holding fingers of their soccer shirts and new Boygenius merch, letting the day’s feelings slowly evaporate into the cool West London evening.