boygenius show why they’re the world’s greatest supergroup at London’s Gunnersbury Park

At their biggest sold-out headline show to date, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus cast a little bit of magic in West London.

Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Frances Beach

boygenius start their first-ever UK show huddled backstage, singing ‘Without You Without Them’ into a shared microphone. The stripped-back song of gratitude makes way for the snarling ‘$20’ as the trio bound onto the stage of Gunnersbury Park to kick things off properly. It’s a dramatic, confident opening to the biggest sold-out headline show the world’s greatest supergroup have ever played, but Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus have already shown their hand. At the end of MUNA’s utterly joyful support set, The Boys crash the stage for the euphoric pop mastery of ‘Silk Chiffon’. It goes against the unspoken rules of big rock and roll shows, but boygenius have always favoured friendship and chasing joy than sticking to what’s come before.

That’s not to say tonight’s gig isn’t an impressive rock spectacle. There are killer riffs and bellowing singalongs, all underpinned with gut-led emotion, but it’s cut with boygenius’ own, self-assured rebellion.

That same attitude flows through debut album ‘The Record’. Released earlier this year, the album pushed all three members of the band to be more fearless, more slick than their respective solo projects. It was the first record any of them had released on a major label, and it ended up topping the Official UK Album Charts. It might be full of complex songs about hyper-specific moments, but it was delivered with such raw, untethered emotion that it feels universally intimate. Tracks about doom also poke fun at rockstar cliches, with boygenius able to be sincere and silly in the same breath. It’s little wonder they’re such an adored band.

“There’s so fricking many of you, it’s overwhelming,” admits Julien tonight, ahead of the post-rock fuzz of ‘Bite The Hand’. With members of the audience celebrated via the video screens, though, there’s safety in those big numbers.

 “It’s so special, we only get to do this because you’re here,” Phoebe tells the crowd towards the end of boygenius’ expansive, emotive 90-minute headline set, after explaining how “It’s our gig,” earlier in the night. The carefully curated lineup of “some of our favourite artists”, featuring a mesmerising set from Ethel Cain, is as much for their enjoyment as it is ours. “It means the world to be on a bill with all these queer people,” beams MUNA’s Katie Gavin, and there is a special sense of camaraderie throughout the night.

It all makes for a truly magical gig, soundtracked by some incredible indie rock anthems. There’s the noisy slacker rock of ‘Satanist’, which features a deafening screamalong to the line “kill the bourgeoisie”, while ‘Emily I’m Sorry’ is a tender, acoustic guitar-driven song of regret and nostalgia, lifted by an ‘80s pop shimmer. ‘Revolution 0’ turns quiet revenge into psychedelic catharsis ahead of a dreamy ‘Stay Down’ and a smirking ‘Leonard Cohen’, a sweet anthem of friendship, also pokes fun at horny rockstars.

A trio of songs allow The Boys to show off their individual talents, with Lucy leading the soulful surrender of ‘Please Stay’, Julian embracing the fragile angst of ‘Favour’ before the jagged escapism of Phoebe’s ‘Graceland Too’. Later, she asks for phones to be put away, so she can look people in the eye while singing the intense ‘Letters To An Old Poet’ before a massive, jubilant ‘Not Strong Enough’ feels like a purge for the entire field. Breakout track ‘Salt In The Wound’ closes out the night, backed by a flurry of fireworks, as MUNA rejoin the party. In the words of Phoebe Bridgers, “what a sick show”.