Boygenius Hit The Road, So I Did Too
There’s no place like a boygenius show––so I went to 12, and queer joy and friendship were overflowing at each and every one.
January 7, 2024
By Kelly Schwint
If you’ve never attended a boygenius show before, well, I cannot say I relate. But from the 12 shows I went to this year, I can give you a pretty good idea of what they were like.
The indie supergroup of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus skyrocketed in fame after releasing The Record in March 2023. My love of the band snowballed over the years, as I became a fan of Bridgers in 2020, then Dacus, and shortly after, Baker. I felt my stomach drop when I scrolled through TikTok in November 2022 to see a sneaky video of the three posing on a Los Angeles street (for what is now known in the fandom as the iconic Rolling Stone photoshoot)––the first sign of life for the band since 2019. I had no idea what that would entail for the band—and certainly not where their return would lead me.
For years, I had been an observer on Twitter rather than interacting with fellow fans. I sat back and watched fans' reactions to album releases, new interviews, and merchandise drops. Even when I felt the same, I kept to myself, but in January, I decided to join the fun and engage with others who were equally excited about boygenius’ return. Not only did replying to tweets immerse me more into the growing fandom, but it also opened doors to genuine friendships that would become more than just exchanging memes or typical Gen-Z responses such as “real” or “so true.” My conversations with Twitter friends would expand far beyond just music and transition into “real life” friendships, but the love for boygenius remained and became a way to spend our time together.
Like many, I’ve been a long-term music lover and concert attendee, and I typically see at least 30 shows a year. While there have been plenty of repeat artists, even multiple shows on one tour (I attended five of Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR shows), I had never left the East Coast solely for a concert. Previously, I drove or took the train from New Jersey to New York, Philadelphia, D.C., and Boston to see my favorite artists live. But this time, it was different, and with every additional leg of tour boygenius added, I found myself buying tickets to more shows in new cities––such as Gorge (Washington State), Los Angeles, Nashville, and many others. As my love for them snowballed over a few years, so did attending more concerts.
In June, my first full-length boygenius show was on the Re:SET Concert Series in Columbia, Maryland, at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I had seen the trio perform two songs at Carnegie Hall in March and briefly open for Taylor Swift in Nashville on the Eras Tour, but nothing compared to the anticipation of seeing a full set. I lined up at 4 in the morning with a camping chair, two blankets, and a dream of getting a front-row barricade spot. While I initially went alone, I met up with some friends I made on Twitter at the venue and made friends in line, which ended up being a consistent part of these shows.
At the time, that had been the earliest I had ever lined up for a show, and when I briskly walked to the stage and accomplished my mission of getting the perfect spot, I knew it would be hard to attend shows any other way.
I was shaking with excitement during Bartees Strange, Dijon, and Clairo’s opening sets. I had been waiting for this for months—I handmade a rhinestone “Queer Joy” tank top inspired by Baker’s banjo with the phrase on it to wear to the show. I felt an adrenaline rush the entire time and even caught Baker’s guitar pick. After the show ended, it was the best I had ever felt after a concert, and I was thrilled knowing that I got to experience it again the next day in New York at Forest Hills Stadium and three days after that in Pittsburgh at Stage AE. Each show felt special in a different way––whether it was because they performed a new song, I got a different side of the barricade, or I made another friend.
Five days after that, I flew out to Nashville to see boygenius for the fourth time, where they dressed up in drag to protest anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Tennessee. It was a specifically special show since it was on pride, and I had never felt so comfortable being myself in a space full of queer people. The safe, celebratory environment the band creates at their shows is a feeling I had never experienced before. Tears streamed down my face, and I felt more than just a fangirl—I felt a part of an important community that is allowed to take up space in this world. This show was a bit different for me as well, as I volunteered at Sounds of Saving’s booth leading up to boygenius’ set. SOS had been on the road with the festival bringing mental health resources and our “Song That Found Me Project” to all 12 cities on the tour, and it was special to see our work in action. Even venturing into the crowd just before their set rather than camping out all day––the show was just as memorable, if not more so after seeing how the music engages with fans like me. Their set feels just as immersive and powerful from the back of the pit as it does from the front.
A month later, I flew from New Jersey to Vancouver to stay at a friend’s house (whom I met on the Internet) so we could line up at 8 am for another show, then get up early the next morning and drive four hours to the middle of nowhere Washington and attend another boygenius show at The Gorge Amphitheatre.
Less than a week after that, I flew to Denver, Colorado, for the iconic Red Rocks venue concert and to stay in a hotel with eight people I met on the Internet who all share the same love for the supergroup. I stood in the second row with a close friend, and we hugged each other during Dacus’s “Please Stay” (a song about helping a friend struggling with their mental health.) Even though it was raining and cold by the end, this was another show I felt immense happiness at. There was a fan project where each section held up a different colored paper over their phone, creating a rainbow. Occasionally, there were awkward times—like staying in a hotel room full of people I had never met before, but in the end, it was fun and all worth it.
Between each trip, I worked long hours at my job, and when I went back to college, I crammed assignments and missed classes. At times, I felt guilt and stress around school, but I knew long term that the experiences I was making following my favorite band on tour would outlive getting a C+ on a history paper. On their last leg of the tour in September and October, I attended five out of the seven shows: New Haven, Philadelphia, All Things Go (Maryland), New York, and Los Angeles. I took the train from Philadelphia to Baltimore to New York in the span of three days to see three shows.
I felt exhausted, and I often questioned if traveling and lugging bags around from city to city and sleeping in bunk beds was worth it—but it always was. I was doing it with friends, who I felt understood and appreciated by, and seeing a band I love more than any other artist.
The most special ones were in Madison Square Garden in New York, where another of my favorite bands, Muna, opened, and in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl on Halloween. Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus debuted all four songs from their new EP, The Rest, at Madison Square Garden. The trio’s costume in Los Angeles was the ‘Holy Trinity’ (Baker as ‘The Son’ Jesus, Bridgers as ‘the Holy Spirit,’ and Dacus as ‘The Father’ God). Myself, on the other hand, dressed up as Julien Baker in her 2015 music video for her song “Sprained Ankle” on her debut album.
Hollywood Bowl was a special show—I freaked out when they wore their OG blazers. I cried when they switched up the setlist and played each other’s songs, especially when Dacus sang Baker’s song “Good News,” and screamed along to Bridgers’ singing Dacus’ “Night Shift.” After being awake for almost two days straight, the post-concert shower and sleep were a fantastic feeling. Still, I knew that would be my last time seeing them for a while, so I rewatched the videos I had taken and embarrassingly cried on my 6-hour flight home.
During those five months and 12 shows, I sobbed. I laughed. I sang along. I hugged my friends. I clung to the barricade. I stared at the ground and focused on not throwing up after waiting outside for 21 hours. As it said on my tank top in Maryland and Baker’s banjo, the two words to best describe a boygenius show is: “Queer Joy.” Even if you are not queer yourself, there is still an energy of safety, understanding, and love. Some people judge fangirls and think we’re wasting time loving people who don’t know we exist. But, for me, there is no place I would rather be than at a boygenius show.
All photos by or courtesy of Kelly Schwint.