Wednesday April 27, 2016 was a night of "Woman Power" at the Bowery Ballroom. Julien Baker headlined, with the support of Phoebe Bridgers and Petal, playing heartfelt songs to a sold out New York crowd.
Petal opened up the show, playing their set with fellow power-emo rockers Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins of Tigers Jaw. They rocked the packed out room, playing songs off their album Shame.
They were followed by Phoebe Bridgers, who commented that it was her first time playing on a New York stage. She crooned her way through a set of sad love songs and discussed recording her 7" record, Killer, which was produced by Ryan Adams. There was a subtle lonely sweetness to her performance, like an emo Sheryl Crow with more edge.
Often commenting on how sad her songs are, Bridgers moved the crowd to silence more than a few times and was the perfect warm-up for the lamentations that Julien Baker was gearing up to bring.
Baker came on stage silent and calm, holding her guitar pick between her lips while she set up her mic and pedals. She thanked the crowd and went on about how appreciative she was to have such great openers for her tour, nonchalantly through her pick filled mouth. This quiet confidence like a seasoned veteran of her trade would lead Julien through her performance, setting a tone of a preacher pontificating to a faithful audience.
She proceeded into songs off her album Sprained Ankle, starting out with the slow and steady "Blacktop" as the crowd quickly got lost in her words, singing along to her choruses. Like Bridgers before her, Baker would often take breaks between songs to joke of how the next song would be as sad as the one before it, and she was always right.
As she played her album's namesake "Sprained Ankle," the crowd again sang along while Baker's pedals looped the song's signature finger-picked intro. She continued to move the tightly packed crowd through "Vessels" and on to "Everybody Does," her self-proclaimed, "happier song" — which is still definitely sad. Between each number she took deep breaths, as if the wounds that were the cause of her beautiful ballads were still fresh and just as painful.
Phoebe would join Julien on stage to perform Elliot Smith's "Ballad of Big Nothing," which she recently released a cover of, as part of a tribute album called Say Yes!. Together they soulfully warbled like sad, but lovely, wonder twins.
Baker continued to push the crowd to the edge of their emotions, playing "Funeral Pyre" and "Brittle Boned," before closing out the set with a piercing performance of the heart-wrenching "Something." She strained her face while she chanted out the chorus of the song, looking deeply relieved by its end until she modestly thanked the crowd and drifted off stage.
Almost no time passed before Baker came back on stage to perform her encore to the still completely invested crowd. To the delight of all in the room, she would be joined by fellow sad-song-lady Sharon Van Etten for "Good News," before officially ending the show with a poignantly moving performance of "Go Home."
By the end of the night the room was left sad, but satisfied with the performances of such talented musicians. The show was a superb demonstration of the power of women in music and a sure sign that they are getting and will continue to get the respect they deserve.
Also check out our review of Julien Baker's performance of "Funeral Pyre" for NPR's Tiny Desk Concert.
For Julien Baker’s latest music, news, and tour dates, check out her Zumic Music Page.