boygenius at the Fox Theater, by William Wayland

boygenius (photo: William Wayland)

Words by Elaine Blakely

First as soloists and then together as boygenius, they performed at Fox Theater in Oakland on November 27 for an endearing three-and-a-half hour performance.

Their supergroup, boygenius, formed out of friendships and the experience of touring together. Dacus and Bridgers have both opened for Julien Baker on prior tours. With similar careers and lives, the three artists intended to co-write three songs. This led to more songs, then an LP release, and now a tour.

These artists’ performances are deeply personal. Julien Baker, the original headliner, signed to Matador Records for her second LP in 2017. She is at the height of her career. Performing live, her eyes are pressed tight and her mouth wide as she belts out her verse. Baker sings deeply personal lyrics, hammering out distorted riffs on electric guitar or looping piano keyboard melodies. It was an emotionally raw experience to see and hear her live.

Lucy Dacus opened the show. She’s been featured on television and NPR’s Tiny Desk like the other three artists. Signed in 2016 to Matador Records who released her debut LP, her second LP, Historian, was released this past spring. She performs the title cut standing alone in the spotlight, hands cupped with only hollow sounds of a guitar, her voice low and raspy. Dacus considers herself more a writer than a musician.

Between these performances is Phoebe Bridgers, who is known for her brutally honest lyrics set to folk melodies. Bridgers sings while playing acoustic or electric guitar, and at times with only a microphone walking around the stage. Coy and self-deprecating, she tells the screaming audience, “No…it will still be slow…” as she switches to electric.

The theme tonight is honesty and not theatrics. The last song boygenius performs, “Ketchum, ID,” is set on the edge of the stage and stripped of amplification, their hallowed voices a parting gift to a hushed audience.