By Callum Foulds
Along with SOAK, Ethel Cain, and Muna; Boygenius astounds the crowd at Gunnersbury park by creating a place where a very specific celebration of queerness is afforded to fans
It was a warm day in London, and didn’t necessarily feel appropriate for what the city was about to play host to.
As the sun blazed above and gaggles of devoted fans stood in line at the merch-stand, I felt a sense of pride in being amongst the type of people Boygenius summoned to Gunnersbury Park. Cheers from the other side of the field petered in as SOAK entered the stage and played a blissful set of understated singer-songwriter tunes - a gentle introduction to the day’s line-up.
I made my way towards the main stage as southern-gothic; high-priestess, Ethel Cain began her set of morbid foot-pounders. Covered head-to-toe in tattoos; wearing a U.S flag bomber, Cain dominated the stage and hypnotised the crowd with her gloomy swagger. Never before has an opening song silenced a field like this, yet 'House in Nebraska' did exactly that. Closing song, 'Crush' was my personal highlight: worshippers at the barriers sporting Victorian lace dresses and crucifixes around their necks, threw themselves at Cain as the song reached its crescendo. My favourite gigs are ones where I feel I must revisit the artist’s entire discography immediately afterwards, and my journey home that evening consisted solely of this.
I have been a fan-lite of Muna for a few years now, so I was simultaneously not too bothered about their set, whilst nevertheless being quietly intrigued. The crowd appeared to balloon as the band rushed on stage and began stomping their way through 'What I Want'. Almost immediately I wished that I had become more familiar with their material – I was completely blown away by the sheer energy and stamina of the entire band. Halfway through the set lead-singer, Katie Gavin, noted that she was wearing a new latex thong and that she kept having to pull at it. This is what I have quickly come to love about the band: the sense of freedom they have infused within their fandom; particularly within the LGBTQ+ community, whether it be sexual or identity; has clearly been revolutionary for so many people. The sheer joy and liberation felt from the crowd was electric; and as Boygenius joined to aid in closing the set, the afternoon exploded in euphoria.
As the sun began to disappear, figures on a screen, lit in red, broke into perfect harmony, as silence fell over the park. Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers ran on stage and roared through a ferocious rendition of '$20'. There isn’t much to say about Boygenius’ headline set, other than it was perfection. Songs from the record and the synonymous ep were performed with the deftness of stadium veterans; whilst ballads from each respective member’s album were savoured by the note. 'True Blue' had the audience swaying with hands in the air; 'Me & My Dog' had the audience screaming every single word with as much wildness as Bridgers; and personal highlight, 'Letter to an Old Poet', had the singer descending into the crowd after asking phones to be put away, looking directly into the eyes of those at the barricades, before delivering one of the most intense performances of a song I have ever witnessed. As expected, yet still completely thrilling, Muna joined the band for closing song, 'Salt in the Wound'. I feel that this moment was the epitome of the community that Boygenius has created.
Along with SOAK, Ethel Cain, and Muna; Boygenius created a place where a very specific celebration of queerness was afforded to the fans of each of these artists. Each artist featured at Gunnersbury Park this past weekend represents an individualism that is so vital to celebrate and see yourself in. The bittersweet elation at the climax of the evening was felt by everyone, and to whom it was as clear as day, that Boygenius are currently the best we have.
About the author:
Callum Foulds is a poet and recording artist based in Nottingham, England. They enjoy good food, scary movies and playing with their cat. They can often be found reading on the couch, or agonising over whatever creative venture they are currently embarking on.