Alone at Phoebe Bridgers: A Night of Emotional Concert Ordeals

Hi friends!

If you’ve spent even 30 seconds speaking to me in the last few weeks, I probably blurted out the ever-exciting news that I was going to see Phoebe Bridgers’ Laneway Sideshow in Sydney. That day has come and gone. I have, in fact, been in the same room as the ever wonderful and talented Phoebe Bridgers. Of course I haven’t been able to shut up about it since – so consider this blog post my summary and we can all move on with our lives.

When this show was first announced a few months ago, I had almost nothing in my bank account. Truthfully, buying a ticket meant I had to live on $20 for the rest of that week. Such is life, though. No harm done, and all efforts made worthy. All is fair in love and war with Ticketek, so on and so forth.

In the swarm of Australians electronically crying out and grabbing at tickets on the day of release, many walked away empty-handed. I was one of the lucky few who secured a spot in the cue and held tight. None of my Phoebe Bridgers-loving friends achieved the same feat for the Sydney show. So I figured if there ever was a time to go to a gig alone, it might as well be the one where I walk out with tears streaming down my face. Call it therapy, if you will.

One of the biggest pros for going alone was the fact that I was in no rush to get there – I finished work for the day and jumped on the train to Horden. The Punisher album on repeat the entire way there. I arrived at the venue about an hour and a half before doors opened. It wasn’t difficult to find my way from the station, just follow the steady stream on skeleton-appropriated costumes and girls with cool coloured hair.

Admittedly, I was starving upon arrival and I knew I’d need my energy for the physical and emotional ordeal I was about to walk into, so I acquired some discounted sushi and headed back to the line. This is where going alone became the gift that kept on giving. I simply walked around the block, past what must have been 100’s of Pharbs, and sat down as close to the front of the line as I could. No one questioned it, even though the people in front of me had been waiting there for something like 18 hours.

While I was waiting for security to let us in, I chatted with those around me, made some friends, and observed their t-shirts. I’m used to purchasing merch AFTER a show, so it didn’t occur to me that the “I Hate Your Mom” shirt was slipping out of my grasp with every passing minute. Luckily, I snatched up the last one in my size. This came in handy, as I felt my chest itch because of my sun allergy and desperately needed an extra layer.

Eventually, they started herding us in like a group of emotionally complex cattle. Seriously, some of the security staff were so aggressive for no reason at all. We were yelled at a few times. Once we were inside, I realised I’d snagged myself a spot that was about two rows back from the barricade. Not bad for someone who just rocked up.

Weirdly, they made us sit down on the floor of the venue while they led everyone in. I’ve never had that happen before at any concert. I was welcoming of the chance to rest my legs, though. Throughout this waiting period, and the rest of the night, security stood at the front of the stage, handing cup after cup full of water into the crowd. I’m pretty sure some people passed out anyway, but I was rather excited to be part of the string of people handing water backward into the enormous crowd of people behind me.

Eventually, the show starts. We’re all sitting down still and admittedly, I had my head in my phone. Suddenly I feel everyone squeeze in closer and I realise if I don’t get up, I’m going to get trampled. Once I am up, I see what all the fuss was about. Phoebe Bridgers is on stage. She wasn’t scheduled to come on for another hour after her supporting act. But she wanted to come out to say hi. I was in a bit of shock from the momentary threat to my safety, but absolutely thrilled to be there, nonetheless.

It took a moment to figure out, but at some stage during the opener I was listening to the people around me talk, and I realised how young the demographic of this show was. I suppose given that Laneway is mostly 18+, those who were too young to see Phoebe Bridgers there were keen to snag up tickets for the all-ages sideshow. Clearly, for a lot of them, it was their first time in the mosh, though. I witnessed two girls beside me get amped up because one of them was blocking the view and the other was upset that they were being pushed around. When you’re 2 rows from the front for Phoebe Bridgers at one of 2 sideshows in the country, expect to be pushed around. I offered the girl in front of me a hairband. Both so that I did not swallow her hair all night, and so that she didn’t have the unpleasant experience of someone accidentally pulling her hair in the middle of some gut wrenching ballad.

Admittedly, I had not listened to the supporting act’s music beforehand. Usually I would, but naturally I was distracted by my excitement. His name is Christian Lee Hutson – and he’s extremely talented. He re-appeared later on to sing ‘Halloween‘ with Phoebe, a song, I learned, he co-wrote. He makes rather somber music, much like his showrunner counterpart, but he got more laughs from the crowd than tears. In my books, a superb choice for an opener, although I was in part hoping that they’d just let Bo Burnham run loose all over the stage for an hour of the show. Much to my disappointment, Bo Burnham was nowhere to be seen.

After Christian, the event staff set the stage for Phoebe and her band. At some point, they bring out an additional two microphones. The girls behind me hyperventilate. There’s a stir near the barricade as we all wonder whether we might get a surprise Boygenius reunion show tonight. Spoiler alert, we did not. But she played ‘Emily, I’m Sorry‘ as a reprise.

I basically filmed the entire show – I don’t like to be that person holding their phone up the entire night, but in this case I truly had no choice. Every song on the set list was too important to me. Plus, it meant that anyone who missed out on tickets ended up attending the show for free via my Instagram story.

The visuals were incredible. I’ve never so much as looked up Phoebe Bridgers live on YouTube, so I did not know what to expect. They built this amazing visual storyline, tying every song together with visuals and moody intermission. Throughout the length of the show, many stories were told, and we had many laughs. Her stage presence was incredible in the sense that it felt like such an intimate show for something that was huge. Her band was incredible. I took almost as many videos of them as I did her. The guy on the trumpet absolutely owned the stage. At some point she asked “who’s gay?”. I’ve never heard a crowd scream louder.

She did not play Sidelines, assumedly because of the recent breakup rumours between her and Normal People star Paul Mescal – but she played Funeral. So all is forgiven. I made it about half an hour into her set before I shed a tear. That could have been because of the adrenaline running through my body, but ‘Saviour Complex‘ quickly set me straight for the sob zone. Of course, Moon Song and I Know The End doubled down on the mood. Her speech about her late father before she played Kyoto was equal parts touching and hilarious, in true Phoebe Bridgers fashion.

Of course, the show, wrapped up with the infamous collective death-screams at the end of ‘I Know The End‘. I met some friends afterward and almost missed the train home, but all is well. Seeing this show single-handedly healed me of all illness for as long as I shall live, and I will stop bragging about it now. Maybe.


(Feature image sourced via The Independent)