NEW HAVEN — Just four days before a sold-out Madison Square Garden show, indy supergroup boygenius – an all-female, all-queer triumvirate of A-list singer-songwriters who were already well-established in their own right – brought a night of beloved tunes and a community of “queer joy” to New Haven.
Hundreds of dedicated fans arrived early to stake their claim to standing-room-only floor space at the 5,000-seat Westville Music Bowl on Thursday night, lining the sidewalk along Yale Ave. Common among them was an adoration not only for the group’s music, but its forthright social stances celebrating and defending an LGBTQ+ culture intermittently under fire.
“They’ve just created a community where we can all come together and feel safe with each other,” said Rylan Fox, a young trans woman from Torrington who took the risk of wearing makeup for the first time ever in public for this event. Fox said the inspiration came from members of boygenius and their public embrace of their sexual and gender identities.
“Since they’re all queer artists, they preach it, they show it in every way they can,” Fox said, citing the welcoming diversity of the fanbase as a pivotal part of the concert experience. “I think one of the biggest aspects is the queer joy.”
Social and cultural elements aside, however, boygenius has demonstrated that musically it’s got the goods to offer.
In the world of folk-rock singer-songwriters, Phoebe Bridgers, 29, has reached a considerable height, with four Grammy nominations and collaborations with the likes of Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift, for whom she opened this spring on the monumental Eras Tour. A native of Pasadena, Calif., her commercial journey began early and has blossomed into a popularity centered on clever, introspective lyrics and soft-tone vocals that, in combination, could fairly rate comparison to Joni Mitchell.
Lucy Dacus, 28, a liquid-toned contralto from Richmond, Va., encapsulated radical last year when she performed her “Couch Tour” around the country, doing entire shows lying on a couch at centerstage because of a back injury. Perhaps the most politically outspoken in the group, Dacus responded back “war criminal” with a frowning face after former President Barack Obama tweeted his annual summer playlist featuring boygenius anthem “Not Strong Enough.”
Add to the mix Julien Baker, 28, a hardcore metal badass guitar shredder from Tennessee with a Stevie Nicks-like voice, whose solo career started with personal and emotional basement recordings done in her college studio. Ultimately obtaining a degree in literature, this recovering addict – petite and swimming in tattoos – was the greatest motivator to establishing the trio in 2018 for its first self-titled EP, followed this year with their LP “The Record.”
“It’s really cool that they’re all solo artists and they came together to make a band,” said Peyton Wasileski of Enfield. “I really like it.”
“They’re all so talented in different ways,” said Hery Chavez of Enfield. “They all have different strengths … and when they come together, they form a supergroup like nothing we’ve ever seen.”
Coming off of two consecutive shows in Boston the nights before, however – following a short Europe tour and many national dates in 2023 – the band may have been a little tired for its Connecticut stop. Chatter and song introductions were minimal and there was a noticeable absence of their signature horseplay onstage. Past concerts have seen “the Boys” affectionately tackling one another onstage, or lifting Baker into the air while she’s soloing on guitar, followed by tumbling to the ground in a mix of laughter, embrace, and a bit of queer-joy showmanship.
Thursday night’s public displays of affection were confined to one dainty three-way kiss after a slow song, along with an advance celebration of Baker’s 28th birthday on Friday with a candles on an almond cake that Baker chomped a messy bite from after a fast, full-house chorus of “Happy Birthday.” Bridgers and Dacus closed the show by throwing handfuls of cake across the elated audience.
The performances themselves were solid and strong, including a public premiere of the song “Voyager,” which will be released Oct. 11 on the group’s second EP, “The Rest.” Most of the small catalogue was otherwise covered, mixed between moments of the audience in rapt silence, as when Bridgers requested everyone put their cellphones away for “Letter to an Old Poet,” and full-house, full-song singalongs, like “Not Strong Enough,” that practically drowned out the band.
“They’re talented musicians and (they) really seem to love each other onstage,” said John Froehlich of West Hartford, a fan in attendance for his third show, along with his teen daughter.
Waiting in line, he likened the experience to attending a Grateful Dead concert, which combined music with the fan community.
“It’s something my daughter and I have bonded on,” he said. “They’re really engaging. And they’re really engaging with the audience … They kind of speak to the younger crowd.”
Still, perhaps the most important aspect of the fanfare remains the joys and security of an inclusive community hosted by “the Boys” and relished by a grateful audience.
During the show one fan’s sign, which appeared on the monitor screen during the concert and brought fervent applause from the crowd, spoke volumes for many in this community.
“You saved my life!” it read.