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Phoebe Bridgers' Melbourne show was a mark of eloquence and solidarity

She performed just days after speaking out about Ryan Adams.

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Rochelle Flack

The Croxton Park Hotel has long been a grubby place. The bandroom’s hosted plenty of sweaty, tinnitus-imposing rock shows since its revamping three-odd years ago. So it was somewhat unusual to experience the hush that Phoebe Bridgers and her two bandmates spread through the room tonight.

Bridgers isn’t a downer, stuck in a land of woe-is-me self-absorption. But the LA songwriter’s folky originals convey that the balance of life leans more towards sadness than sunshine and dairy free milkshakes.

The room was packed with fans of her work whose expectations were presumably fairly accurate. Even so, a tinge of awkwardness can permeate during spare and emotionally centred performances. From the off, though, Bridgers’ good humour and confident presence tempered the achy-breaky slant of her songs.

The trio walked on stage to the Goo Goo Dolls’ ‘Iris’, which could trigger a hint of nostalgic silliness in the most studious aesthete, and her between-song banter provoked frequent laughter. The introduction to ‘Chesapeake’ – from the Better Oblivion Community Center LP with Conor Oberst – outed guitarist Christian Lee Hutson as a massive stoner. Bridgers’ love for apples sometimes gets her into trouble due to Hutson’s tendency to rejig them as bongs.

 
 
 
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The moments of light relief evaporated with each succeeding song, however, as Bridgers and co. exhibited deft musicality and intuitive tenderness. The close harmonies provided by Hutson and drummer Marshall Vore were like biting into a delicious peach.  

The set drew heavily from Bridgers’ 2017 debut, Stranger in the Alps, with the singles ‘Scott Street’ and ‘Killer’ clear standouts. ‘Me & My Dog’, from last year’s Boygenius record, took on valedictory significance as Bridgers’ 16-year-old family dog had passed away just days earlier.

Prior to ‘Motion Sickness’ – a song that begins with the line “I hate you for what you did” – Bridgers responded to a few audience members’ derision of Ryan Adams. Speaking out against abusers is essential, but going public also means having to contend with nosy strangers raising the issue again and again.

Bridgers didn’t shy away, however, paraphrasing an Instagram post from earlier in the day that underlined the necessity of calling out the bad behaviour of friends, even those in high places.

“We stand with you, Phoebe,” called another punter at the song’s conclusion. And the sentiment pertained not just to Bridgers’ journey of survival, but also the Melbourne crowd’s deep affection for her music and soul-baring performance.

Highlight: A cover of Gillian Welch’s ‘Everything is Free’.

Lowlight: Hint – he didn’t write ‘Summer of ’69’.

Crowd Favourite: ‘Scott Street’.