Boygenius at Gunnersbury Park
Last Sunday, 20 August 2023, Boygenius performed their biggest headline show at Gunnersbury Park in London as part of their festival series throughout the summer. The lineup featured SOAK, MUNA, Ethel Cain as openers.
Fun fact: the line-up was entirely made up of queer women which was super cool and I admire that Boygenius decided to do that.
The weather was definitely on the musicians' side, especially for London, as it was warm and sunny enough to enjoy the atmosphere and take it easy sitting on the grass, but not too hot to be uncomfortable.
Due to the timing of getting there, we missed SOAK, so it wouldn’t be fair to comment on their performance but I’ve heard it was great.
It was to the sounds of Ethel Cain’s opening song, House in Nebraska to which I walked into the venue. The first thing of note was how similar the vocals sounded to the recording of the album Preacher’s Daughter. To sound that similar in a venue this spacious was no mean feat, and yet Ethel Cain achieved it.
Cain’s setlist contained the standout songs from her debut album, but also a couple of well-known older tracks from before its release, such as Crush. Cain managed to make this field in a park in London feel like an intimate gig, with the way she got down from the stage approached the fans at the barrier and sang directly to them.
Cain’s haunting yet smooth vocals were the perfect welcome to my night at Gunnersbury Park, and there’s no doubt she will have gained herself several new fans from this performance.
The final openers before Boygenius were MUNA, who were a definite change of pace from the dulcet tones of Ethel Cain. MUNA came to Gunnersbury Park to get the party started, and that’s exactly what they did by coming straight on stage with That’s What I Want - an upbeat almost dance-influenced track that encouraged the crowd to their feet.
The band’s performances were not only lively and engaging, but their speeches between songs were also charming. Confidence exuded from their performance and each song played was infectious. Their set-list was varied, but it definitely livened up the crowd which is not an easy feat after some of them had spent hours waiting in the hot sun by this point in time.
Their set also ended with Silk Chiffon for which they brought out the members of Boygenius to perform with them which was fun!
As the sun began to set, out of nowhere came the iconic Thin Lizzy track The Boys Are Back In Town indicating the show was about to begin.
It was to be expected that the band might follow this introduction with a punchy song of their own, but Baker, Dacus and Bridgers actually opened their set with a backstage acapella version of The Record opener Without You, Without Them - an indication of the strong themes of female comradely to come throughout the show.
The setlist of the show as a whole had a well-chosen combination of songs from their debut EP, The Record and their solo work.
Throughout the night there were plenty of mellow vocal-lead songs which were brilliant with the relaxed and airy atmosphere of the show. In particular, the performance of Cool About It showcased Julien Baker’s vocals to the backdrop of a beautiful sunset behind the stage, and also each of their solo tracks (Please Stay, Favor, Graceland Too) were beautifully performed despite being interrupted several times due to medical issues within the crowd.
However, it was the more rock-influenced tracks that had the biggest impact throughout the show, such as $20 which was one of the first songs performed, and Not Strong Enough, which was the finale of the main setlist before the encore. The crowd of (mainly) young women chanting the words ‘Always an Angel, Never a God’ almost felt like a moment of group therapy and really emphasised the beauty of an artist playing for and the audience that really understands and resonates with the lyrics they’re singing.
This being said, the moment that had the most lasting impact was the Salt In The Wound closing song. If anyone in the audience had any doubt that Boygenius are an indie-ROCK band, they wouldn’t have after that. With its heavy instrumental and fireworks to accompany the climax of the song, as well as a final visit on stage from MUNA too, Salt In The Wound was an ideal high-energy performance to end on.
As far as the actual performances go, there’s really not much criticism to be had at all. It’s easy to tell that Boygenius are a band that are meant to be heard live, in a similar ilk to the iconic rock bands of the 70s and 90s which the band take inspiration from.
Whilst it was not without its issues, it is easy to understand why venues like this were chosen for Boygenius’UK dates. Boygenius seem to be a band that should either be seen intimately and acoustically, or in a festival-style atmosphere. Whilst I’m sure it would be fantastic, it would be difficult to picture this show being played in an indoor arena of a similar capacity.
Overall, Boygenius and their openers put on a fantastic show and also were really engaged with the audience. The line-up was clearly carefully planned with Boygenius fans in mind. It was also nice to see a huge mix of people in the audience. Concerts nowadays can feel like there’s only one type of person going, but this show had one of the most varied audiences I’ve ever seen which added to the generally fantastic atmosphere.
Basically, if you have the opportunity to see any of these artists, but particularly Boygenius, then do it.