Arguably one of the hottest tour tickets for the fall concert season, Phoebe Bridgers‘ Reunion tour swung through Birmingham, Alabama on Monday night in support of last year’s masterpiece Punisher. Situated at Avondale Brewing Company, the Birmingham date marked one of the smallest-sized rooms that Bridgers was playing on tour, creating a relatively intimate evening for her and the thousands of fans in attendance, some of which lined up as early as 11 am that morning.
After severe thunderstorms delayed the show from starting at its previously scheduled 7 PM time, local opener Taylor Hollingsworth took the stage at 8:00 PM to play his trademark blend of country-western-inspired music. With an illustrious playing history in regional bands like the Dexateens and Dead Fingers, and a reliable presence in Conor Oberst’s Mystic Valley Band (where he met Bridgers after touring with her in the mid-2010s,) it was refreshing to hear his twangy, country-tinged sound win over the hometown audience. Bridgers consistently talks about how Hollingsworth is her favorite songwriter, and the strength of his discography shined bright to begin the night as he played through favorites off of his recent album Country Western and Tap Dancin’ Daddy. The highlight of the night came at the end of the set when his wife Kate Hollingsworth (sister of Maria Taylor and frontwoman of Dead Fingers) came on to sing a sweet duet with Taylor to conclude the set. Hollingsworth pulled off his set remarkably well, armed with his long-time drummer Ross Dawg and a lap steel guitarist that created a beautiful environment in which the show was able to begin.
After a brief thirty-minute intermission, Phoebe Bridgers took the stage to a deafening roar from the crowd. Immediately launching into “Motion Sickness”, Bridgers and her band sounded immaculate from the get-go. From there, they walked through the highlights of 2020’s Punisher, playing every song in near-order. It was a stunning experience for those who had devoted their past year to Punisher, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house during the softer moments of songs like “Moon Song” or “Graceland Too”. Sprinkled in alongside Punisher tracks were old favorites like “Scott Street” and even a solo rendition of boygenius’ “Me and My Dog” that took on powerful meaning as Bridgers took on the chorus typically belted by her bandmate Julien Baker. Her irreverent online presence translated to the live set, as she frequently took time to interact with the crowd, asking “What the hell is a Roll Tide?” and reading the sign of a fan that hilariously visualized the text messages with her father that talked about how “Phoebe Bridgers is utter garbage — how do you like this shit?”; Bridgers jokingly mentioned that would be her new Tinder bio going forward.
It all led to the thrilling climax of “I Know the End”, the throat-shredding, cathartic closer of Punisher that seemed to bring to life the anxieties and pain felt by all over the last two years. For one song, we screamed and sang in complete unison, throwing our hands to the sky and just letting out all of the pent-up emotion until there was nothing left. Surprisingly, that’s not how the set ended — after a brief absence, Phoebe and her band returned to the stage to play her cover of Bo Burnham’s “That Funny Feeling” that is now available on streaming services in protest of Texas’s recent abortion laws. This soft but powerful song might prove to be the mission statement for a Phoebe Bridgers show — as she escalates to unprecedented territory due to Punisher’s popularity, it’s her grounded emotionalism that will continue to draw in new fans as we push towards an uncertain future.
Check out our photo galleries of Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Hollingsworth below, and try to get tickets to the rest of her sold-out tour here: