Spring is synonymous with new life: trees budding, flowers blooming and the end of a months-long-hibernation for all life. The weather-induced hibernation that we all partake in as humans in Wisconsin comes with a need to expel the pent-up misery that the cold often brings. Music is often an aid in letting go of our emotions. Last Thursday, Phoebe Bridgers visited High Noon Saloon for a show that ultimately marked the end of the relentless winter.
Lomelda, the creative outlet for Texan musician Hannah Read, opened up for Bridgers with a set that was as charming as it was heartbreaking. Playing songs from her recent album Thx, Read brought her loneliness to life on stage. Read is incredibly soft-spoken; it was near impossible to understand her inter-song tangents. While Read’s speaking voice was subdued, her music screamed of loneliness. Her quiet voice embodied the idea of isolation.
While her music was heartbreaking, her personality was often bright and bubbly. In between tuning her guitar and performing several songs backed by aquatic synths, Read mused on the wonders of bread. “I love bread,” she said shortly before going on to claim that it is the most desirable food according to science. Lomelda’s set was simple and one of the more genuine opening performances I’ve seen in quite some time.
By the time Bridgers stepped foot on stage, everyone in the crowd — overheated by their winter jackets — was ready to let go of their sadness. Bridgers wore a pitch-black dress, making her platinum blonde hair pop even more; she was joined by three suit-wearing bandmates. String lights covered nearly every inch of equipment on stage. They gave off a warmth that matched the energy of Bridgers’ beaming smile. The simplicity of the band’s clothing and the glow of the lights were eerily reminiscent of a wedding, but one where there is nothing but heartbreak.
Primarily playing songs from her 2017 debut album, Stranger in the Alps, Bridgers had a near immediate connection with the audience. Just a few songs in, and sniffles — presumably from crying concert-goers — could be heard throughout the crowd. Her intimate performance continued to draw out the tears of attendees with each gripping track.
Stranger in the Alps is brimming with vulnerability across its 11 songs. Each song is beautiful in its own right, but some translated to a live performance much better than others. “Georgia,” “Killer” and “Funeral” all perfectly captured the melancholy in Bridgers’ voice.
As the set neared its end, Bridgers began the most enthusiastic song of the night. “Motion Sickness,” despite its somber themes and lyrics, is more similar to a smooth, upbeat indie track than some of the slower ballads that Bridgers is mostly known for. The song, though not her finale, was one of the highs of the night. Bridgers’ vocal delivery was riveting.
Several exercise-ball-sized balloons began circulating the room. Eventually, when they popped near the climax of the song, metallic strips of confetti rained down on the dancing fans.
Bridgers is a treasure in the indie rock scene. She captures emotion and vulnerability in a way few singers can, and she does so with new, creative storytelling. Her songs tell stories of trying to forget past trauma, but by recording her thoughts she keeps them alive. In doing so, she offers a path for fans to rid themselves of their own sadness, or at the very least, momentarily ease the pain. Her live performances are no different.