Phoebe Bridgers, Night 1 at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Christie McMenamin

At just 23 years old, Bridgers released her first record, Stranger in the Alps, in
September of 2017 to critical acclaim. Musicians such as Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst,
and Julien Baker have sung her praises; Adams produced Bridgers’ EP, Killer, which
preceded Stranger. Oberst has brought her out on tour with him, as has Baker.
Oberst also sings on “Would You Rather,” a track on Stranger that Bridgers wrote
about her brother.

 

Despite such preeminent musical relationships and accolades, Bridgers stands on
her own. Her soft, expressive voice can hush a crowded room. Her lyrics, revealing
an introspection well beyond her years, can bring listeners to tears. There’s an
innate intimacy to Bridgers’ work, a seemingly effortless evocation of raw human
emotion. She has an inexplicable ability to connect with others in a way that most
artists don’t, one that seamlessly translated from Stranger into her live
performance.

The stage was dimly lit save for a string of yellow lights wrapped around Bridgers’
mic stand, often giving her face the appearance of a soft glow, a sharp contrast to the
dark of the room. As she began her set with “Smoke Signals,” the audience burst into thunderous applause, welcoming her to Brooklyn before immediately quieting, a note they would hold for the rest of the evening.

The show was momentous: during “Would You Rather,” surprise guest Conor Oberst
delighted the crowd by joining Bridgers. It was also drummer Marshall Vore’s
birthday, and he was given a cupcake with a single lit candle and a joint chorus of
“Happy Birthday.” The end of the night, however, was undoubtedly the best: at the
end of “Motion Sickness,” Bridgers’ most musically upbeat song, massive black
balloons filled with confetti were thrown into the audience to cheers. The
penultimate song prior to the encore, “Scott Street,” immediately followed, and
Bridgers was joined once again by Oberst, as well as openers Soccer Mommy.

In-between sharing a mic with Bridgers, Oberst set himself to work lobbing balloons
off the stage and into the expectant crowd, who eagerly batted them around. As the
balloons often managed to make their way back to the stage, Oberst continued to
promptly pick them up and hurl them back, playing a reciprocal game of catch-and-
release that went on throughout the majority of the song.

After everyone exited the stage, Bridgers and Vore then sang “You Missed My
Heart,” by Mark Kozelek, a heartrending cover that appears on Stranger. Bridgers
sank onto the floor of the stage holding a microphone as her vocals and Vore’s
harmonies soared in their own still way. All the chaos and noise of the prior song was suddenly forgotten and the audience found themselves suddenly muted and rapt.

For the encore, Bridgers covered Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” as the entire
audience sang along. Making their reappearance was Oberst and Soccer Mommy,
providing a triumphant end to an incredible night.

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