As the lights came on over thousands of costume-clad fans after 25 songs in a surprise-packed set, boygenius’ Halloween performance at the Hollywood Bowl, coined “boogenius,” became Holy ground. When our very own trinity took the stage dressed to the nines as The Holy Trinity, the only word that could appropriately express the audience’s reaction was “Hallelujah!” From the first time the trio sang “Always an angel, never a god” on tour almost five months ago, to the last, a costume paying homage to their songwriting steeped in the tension between queerness and religion was perhaps the most enlightened way to close this tour. However, the supergroup’s members, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, were not the only ones on stage who emulated this iconic lyric; each member of the band also made a grand entrance of their own in matching angel costumes. Between the divine looks on stage and the horns adorning the Bowl, within the first few minutes of the concert I knew “the boys” had a devilishly good night in store for us.
After the standard start to their setlist, the first surprise of the night was quickly uncovered when boygenius welcomed Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters to the stage to perform “Satanist” together, one of the songs belonging to the set’s edgy rock kickoff. However, true fans know that the lore between boygenius and Dave Grohl runs deep. Back in January, the trio recreated the iconic 1994 Nirvana photoshoot for their Rolling Stone cover, and in this very interview, Phoebe and Lucy told Julien that she looks like Dave Grohl. Now, that’s what I’d call a full circle moment.
Following Grohl’s legendary cameo, the rock energy tangibly dissipated and a subsequent hush fell over the crowd as they began one of the more intimate stretches of the setlist. “Emily I’m Sorry,” “True Blue” and “Cool About It,” formulate a holy trinity of their own. Throughout the duration of these three songs, which are beloved for their soothing vocals with lyrics that read like prose but land like a poem, the band held the audience’s emotions in the palm of their hands. Everyone in the crowd looked as if they were entranced: hands lingered over hearts, arms rested on surrounding shoulders, and each pair of eyes was glued to the magic happening on stage. After seeing one of their first performances and now one of their last, this part of the setlist draws people in, and keeps them there, unlike any other section.
After an additional ten songs, including fan favorites, “Me & My Dog” and “Not Strong Enough,” the lights unexpectedly turned off and the stage plunged into darkness. My friend leaned over to ask whether we needed to encore them and as I was shaking my head, knowing there was no way the show was ending, a singular spotlight lit up the B-Stage. Here, on a tiny alternate stage about an arms length away from fans, boygenius played all four songs from their newest EP, “the rest,” which was released only weeks before the performance as a follow-up to “the record.” And what could be more on brand for boygenius than the dichotomy between their countless lyrical nods to the cosmos sung underneath a sky full of LA smog?
Following “Powers,” the trio took off in a full sprint towards the main stage, catching fans’ waving hands in their own the entire way back. When I saw boygenius at the Re:SET Concert Series in Pasadena last June, this next part of the set had not yet become a part of Phoebe’s concert ritual. So, when she asked the audience to put their phones away for the next song, citing its immense emotional weight, I was floored. The view of the Bowl without a single phone in sight was mystifying, and it created a sense of unspoken vulnerability that made my eyes swell with tears by the end of the song. “Letter To An Old Poet” stylistically mimics the bridge of “Me & My Dog,” but incorporates such a profound lyric change, making it impossible not to viscerally feel the self-growth that occurred between their debut EP and now. If I could go back and relive one moment from the concert, it would undoubtedly be this one.
The show-stopping finale was the swapping of the iconic boygenius blazers, which are adorned with personalized patches that differentiate “the boys” from one another. Instead of each member playing one song from their solo discographies, as they do traditionally, the trio teased their final surprise through the blazers’ symbolism. Julien, wearing Phoebe’s blazer, performed “Motion Sickness,” Phoebe, wearing Lucy’s blazer, performed “Night Shift,” and finally, Lucy, wearing Julien’s blazer, performed “Good News.” As soon as they strummed the first chord of “Motion Sickness,” it’s safe to say that the entire crowd was in shambles – in the absolute best way possible.
Even though most of us were already thinking it, the “boogenius” show at the Hollywood Bowl solidified the fact that a supergroup as wildly talented as this one only comes around once in a lifetime. Especially after the announcement that the band received six Grammy nominations, there has been a keen sense of pride amongst the band’s loyal followers. In less than a year, the band has transformed from a relatively niche Gen-Z gem to an internationally-praised group of rock stars. As they also continue to be pioneers in the rock genre and stir ancient binaries in the music industry, it’s evident that Julien, Phoebe and Lucy will continue to make history both as a group and on their own. Boy, are we lucky enough to exist at the same time as these geniuses!