Halloween finally arrived and I am not sure what it means to me, since I come from Brazil and the tropics are not known for goth holidays. Still, I listened a lot to The Cure with my partner during the Undergraduate years. So, this day must mean something to me, even if I don’t know what. This week I experienced the spookiest Halloween, which included the most uncomfortable, unnecessary, upsetting and extremely heavy situation with a close friend. Dealing with my emotions just like any 28-year-old teenager would, I got tequila and spent the afternoon with my partner dressing up for the only band that matters in my life currently: boygenius. This band is safe, it is queer, it is a hug from a childhood friend, it is the old diary that you keep under your pillow, and it is also shoplifting as a teenager, screaming in your car as you pass through a tunnel, and it is just you and your dog in an impossible view.
Anna, my partner, and I have never been to the Hollywood Bowl and there is something nostalgic, almost magical, about it. Could be the nature around an isolated musical stage on the hills or the fact that the stadium is huge and cozy at the same time. Could also be the boys singing under the moon, while I was holding Anna’s hand after a long day. The point is that my anxiety had no power anymore. It is just impressive how my body changed physically. Actually, it is not too impressive. This band just shows what respectful friendship looks like and I really needed to believe in what the three of them have. Their love for each other was manifested in simple decisions, such as covering songs from their solo careers. Julien performed “Motion Sickness”, Phoebe’s song that I listened to in my car every day for over a year, and considered tattooing the lyrics several times. Phoebe sang “Night Shift” by Lucy Dacus, which reminds me of a dear college friend who sent me this great song a few times, always forgetting that she already sent it previously. Anyway, those covers just prove a level of sharing and absence of ego so rare and beautiful, considering that women are designed to compete and this is multiplied by a thousand in the case of artists. Friends honoring the songwriting of each other and not being possessive about their lyrics.
Differently from any other indie rock band, boygenius doesn’t need to prove to anybody that they are cool by performing cheap edginess. They are the coolest, because they enjoy doing what they are doing together. This is something that I feel particularly connected with. I would only listen to Nirvana when I was fourteen, but I was maybe too sweet for my music taste. Of course, a male Bukowski reader offended me one day by saying: “Kurt Cobain would’ve hated you”. I have forgotten all types of microaggression, but this comment really stayed with me. What can hurt a fourteen year old more than saying that Kurt Cobain would hate them? I am still recovering. Years passed and I grew into my Sonic Youth phase, but every time I wore their T-shirt, a man with unrequested or inappropriate intentions would appear with a full lecture on alternative music. Today, wearing my boygenius T-shirt, nothing and nobody bothers me. I had the sweetest women commenting on it and I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I feel safe.
Anyway, forgive my lines about being hated by Kurt Cobain and other stuff. I meant to write about the concert that healed my emotions. By the way, talking about Nirvana, Dave Grhol was a guest drummer in the concert! And only my fourteen year old self knows the impact of this. Sorry, I can’t develop an elegant writing about it. I can only communicate my pure excitement. The show featured many songs from their first album. Among them, I would like to highlight “Ketchum, ID”. This has been my personal lullaby for a while now and even in a full stadium it felt quiet and gentle. Somehow, everyone singing together “I am never anywhere / anywhere I go” built a protection shield. What happened before during the day didn’t matter; Same for whatever would happen next. Another special moment consisted of the band performing outside the main stage. The lights were out and then the audience was surprised by boygenius’ new performance space. They were in the middle of the audience, closer to everyone who couldn’t afford the most expensive tickets. It feels very appropriate, considering that they wrote “Will you be an anarchist with me?” in their song “Satanist”. That is also thoughtful, a word that defines the group well. Honestly, any revolutionary act starts after someone is brave enough to be thoughtful and caring.
Before this Halloween night, I only saw boygenius at their movie premiere here in LA. I had gone to Amoeba another time during that same week, but my friend was feeling bad and I took her to eat something. When we came back to the store, we found out that the band had just personally showed up in there. We laugh remembering this unfortunate situation. Another fan felt so bad for us that she gave me the information for the movie premiere. During their conversation after the screening, Phoebe mentioned her struggle writing the verse “I want to be happy”, included in “Letter To An Old Poet”. She asked her friends for another word for happy. Lucy Dacus simply suggested that “happy” was already good. Why not? Phoebe accepted the suggestion and the unpretentiousness in that line really cuts my heart. It is especially beautiful, because it channels their iconic song “Me & My Dog”. Phoebe asked everyone to put down their phones and performed “Letter To An Old Poet ” yesterday. I thought so much about not over-intellectualizing my feelings. I also thought about the level of trust between the public and the artist. This song makes the artist vulnerable and it still was generously shared with us. In return, we made that moment private and respected her wish not to be recorded.
As a sum up of my experience, I would like to mention that Julien Baker was dressed as Jesus Christ. She has been a sacred figure to me since I listened to her cover of “Ballad Of Big Nothing” years ago. However, her costume is actually meaningful, because I saw an interview in which she addressed her faith with honest criticism and depth. She is also a lesbian woman, not the favorite kind of people in institutions like christian environments. Anyway, nobody could pull off that look better than her. As if dressing up as the savior (not sure if with complex or not) wasn’t already too funny, just read how Lucy Dacus was introduced to the crowds: “Anyone can be Jesus, but here is someone not everyone can be: Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-cy Dacus!”. I am not explaining that one, but when you figure it out, you will choke. Just like in their NPR performance, the precise and infamous jokes were part of the concert. These jokes are a very simple and sincere way to include the fans in their friendship, making the environment lovely for everyone. Maxine, Phoebe’s dog, was also there and she advised everyone to not clap (only snap). God knows how much I needed a dog in a rock stadium that night.
Overall, boygenius protected me in a way that they will never understand. I remember running in circles in my living room with headphones since I was ten, during moments of anxiety. Everyday. At least two hours a day. For more than ten years (and everybody in the house respected that moment). I only stopped doing this after moving to LA, because the freeway with loud music solves this problem. As I slowly moved away from that weird habit, I started to forget that the only thing that softens my anxiety is music. I remembered that very clearly during the concert. And I felt the impact of watching my favorite band in my body and my mind. I am forever grateful.