At the present time, this author is seriously considering turning this website into a Phoebe Bridgers fanzine and just be done with it. Her Coachella performance this weekend was probably the most talked-about music-related topic online, in a “you had to be there” manner, and you’d be forgiven if you think “this can’t be all that!” However, in an ocean of amazing Coachella performances, hers was indeed all that, a scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs “this is the best thing ever!” frenzy during every song that was played, combined with constant moments of fighting back tears.
In a bout of bad luck that turned into a unique opportunity, we missed Coachella’s livestream of Bridgers’s performance and had to do a bit of online digging. Luckily, Pitchfork and Youtube were of immediate assistance, pointing us to a couple of videos uploaded by user Chad (Chad later uploaded the whole concert, except for “DVD Menu”, still MIA at the time of writing this). Watching Chad’s videos and witnessing the concert from an audience POV is how we think this unique moment should be experienced, complete with screams, gasps, giggles, whisperings and roars.
For her Reunion tour, Bridgers opens a 3D pop-up book made of concept art of her Punisher lyrics, in a set design that vaguely resembles Caroline Polachek’s for her Pang tour, while also seemimgly drawing inspiration from the slew of fan-made art available online. Bridgers benefits from an army of fans, artists and writers who connect deeply with her songs and take inspiration from her lyrics, and seeing the immense collages for songs like “Chinese Satellite” or “I Know The End” during the Coachella performance feels like a full-circle moment for the Punisher album (one of the best albums of its kind of the past decade).
For his contribution, Chad really seems to effortlessly hone in on the close-up-worthy moments of the concert, only to focus on the whole stage and the projection art most of the time. Bridgers peppers the performance with a lot of her usual witty outbursts, (“this song is about how there’s no God,” “this is a song about love“) and there are many surprises (at a festival that was, if we’re being honest, filled with surprising moments; whether it’s Chad, Doja Cat, Maggie Rogers, every artist seems to have given their all to make the first weekend of the 2022 edition one for the ages).
At one point during “Chinese Satellite“, there’s a great “beam me up, Scotty!” moment involving a ghostie and a UFO. Likewise, during “I Know The End” there is the “haunted house with a picket fence” next to the billboard saying “The End Is Here”, but it also catches fire. The moon slowly rises during “Moon Song“, and the symmetrical cliff-resembling-a-ship of “ICU” is obscured by white clouds.
It really doesn’t get better than this. Hardcore Bridgers fans will probably say “but the artwork isn’t strictly a Coachella thing”, and they would be right to do so. The artwork, the outfit (which made it in just enough fashion best-of lists for the festival) and the finely tuned vocals (a result of a combination of multiple vocalists and backup singers), seem to be specific to the Reunion tour. However, the Coachella performance had a violinist during most of the songs and even a trumpet player. There was a surprise appearance by Arlo Parks during “Graceland Too” and “I Know The End.” There was also the near-debut of “Sidelines“, the newest song by Bridgers, which was a special moment unto itself, even managing to beat “I Know The End” in its emotional delivery.
There are not enough adjectives (and mental expletives) in the world available to describe how it felt to sit down and watch the entire performance unfold. Every song came with its story, its pocket-universe, its reverberations, its history and future. “Kyoto“, “Punisher” and “Moon Song” have never sounded better. “Scott Street“, one of the fan-favorite songs, surprises even more with its coda. On “I Know The End“, the ending track that, by now, should come with its own “brace yourself” warning, the band truly does something different, keeping the emotional intensity of the first half, but exploding into different colors, textures (and even some atonality and tension) that aren’t there in most live renditions of the song or the studio version. This turns the finale into – perhaps ironically – the major moment when you’ll be too busy thinking about how amazing it is that you made it to the end, that you were “there” to witness this (even as a virtual viewer of a series of videos where the sound quality varies and the close-ups are mostly pixelated), to be able to even think about crying.
Overall, this concert (a celebration of life under a Gothic lens with more than enough irony to ensure it never collapses under the weight of its themes) deserves a category of its own. We honored it with one: our very own Hall Of Fame section, reserved for the Best Things In The Universe And Only Those, the moments of glory which make you proud to exist and bear witness. Bridgers might sing about how she’s “blue all the time“, and her music is the best therapy for fans, but moments like seeing her book open for the first time – only to reveal a terrarium-like rendition of the lyrics – remind us that music is art, and that even resorting to platitudes is (sometimes) acceptable in order to capture some of its essence. The festivalgoers who were lucky enough to see Bridgers live can probably attest to that, but for the rest of us, there is more than enough to enjoy, and rave about, in the recorded videos (and maybe the official stream will make its way online to complete the experience).
We have made a playlist of all of Chad’s videos, in the order they were performed for you to enjoy. You can also watch the videos below, followed by a brief interview which took place right after the performance:
Featured image is chinese satellite art by reddit user januaryevenings.
Reading Material: 3D Books: The Combination of Engineering and Imagination