First Avenue, Jam and The Current present Phoebe Bridgers with special guests Muna
Review and photos by Luke Payne
For an artist whose songs are almost exclusively dreary and depressing, this was a night of optimism and sheer joy. Sure, things weren’t quite back to “normal” yet – after the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19, Bridgers changed all of her venues from indoor ones to outdoor ones and made proof of vaccination mandatory. Waiting in line to enter Surly Brewing Festival Field in Minneapolis, signs stated that “Phoebe wants you to wear a mask.” Luckily, pretty much everyone complied. With the way this night turned out, the future of live events despite the pandemic certainly seems bright.
The night started off with a performance by unapologetically queer electro emo-pop band MUNA, comprised of main singer Katie Gavin and Josette Maskin and Noami McPherson on guitar and backup vocals. And by unapologetically queer, I mean they were literally selling t-shirts with the saying “Sad soft pop songs for sissies, angry girls, emo queers and crybabies.” They started things off with a bang playing their hit Number One Fan, before moving on to Stayaway, Crying on the Bathroom Floor, and eventually singing their brand new single Silk Chiffon featuring none other than Phoebe Bridgers herself singing offstage.
It was clear MUNA did not expect the kind of welcome they received, with lead singer Gavin even saying that “the audience startled them a bit.” MUNA has always managed to fly under the radar somewhat despite being around since 2013, but the fanbase they have here in Minnesota is most definitely passionate, with the audience cheering for them every bit as loudly as they later did later in the evening once Phoebe took the stage. MUNA’s set ended with I Know a Place, a song about the importance of safe spaces and humanizing our enemies in times of growing division. With the jumping and screaming out of the way, the audience was ready to settle into Bridgers’ generally slower and more somber discography.
Finally, it was time. The Black Eyed Peas’ anthem I Gotta Feeling began to blare as she walked onstage in her famous skeleton onesie with bandmates Marshall Vore on drums, Harrison Whitford on guitar, Anna Butterss on bass, and Nick White on keys. Bridgers started the show with her most-streamed song, Motion Sickness, a deceptively upbeat song about her abusive past relationship with music producer Ryan Adams, to rapturous applause.
From there, Bridgers went on to play the entirety of her latest album, Punisher, which was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 2020 Grammy Awards. As she made her way through the track list, she sprinkled in fan favorites Scott Street (complete with the audience waving the flashlights on their phones) and Smoke Signals from her debut album, A Stranger in the Alps. After Smoke Signals, the audience began to cheer for Georgia, yet another song from that album. Clearly not anticipating this and even a little flattered, with a smile on her face she nodded to her bandmates and said – “We – we’ll try. If I can just remember how to…,” trailing off before effortlessly sliding into the first verse. She blew the song out of the park.
After Georgia, she transitioned into a cover of Here Comes a Regular by The Replacements. When introducing the song, she said, “of course, I chose the saddest Replacements song.” This is coming from a lady who started a record label called Saddest Factory Records, after all.
As the night began to draw to a close, the audience joined her in singing my personal favorite song of hers, ICU, then quieted things down with “a song about loving someone who hates themselves” Graceland Too, and ended with the unofficial 2020 anthem I Know the End about living during the apocalypse. Building to a grand and (literally) screaming crescendo, screaming our throats raw was a perfect and cathartic way to end her set.
Of course, one more song was yet to come – after cheering for an encore, she ended the night with a cover of That Funny Feeling from Bo Burnham’s INSIDE. Burnham’s mix of darkly funny and deadly serious introspective lyrics such as, “Carpool Karaoke, Steve Aoki, Logan Paul / A gift shop at the gun range, a mass shooting at the mall,” meshed so perfectly with Bridgers’ style you’d be forgiven for thinking she may have written it herself.
While Bridgers may have not attempted to smash a guitar on-stage like she did during her famed SNL outing, it’s no doubt the night was a smash hit.