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Photo Essay by Andy Witchger: Phoebe Bridgers at St. Paul’s Turf Club

Phoebe Bridgers’ songs are intimate and conversational, perfectly crafted for small, dimly-lit venues like St. Paul’s Turf Club.

Drawing heavily from her acclaimed debut, Stranger in the Alps, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter performed for a sold out crowd that preserved a reverent silence throughout her set on Friday, April 20, 2018. Bridgers reveled in the audience’s rapt attention, with the silence amplifying her hushed confessionals and delicate finger-picking.

Death and loss loomed, appearing in “Killer,” “Would You Rather” and a myriad of other songs, including a cover of her noted influence Mark Kozelek’s “You Missed My Heart.”

During the heart-wrenching “Funeral,” she intoned, “Last night I blacked out in my car / And I woke up in my childhood bed / Wishing I was someone else, feeling sorry for myself / When I remembered someone’s kid is dead.”

“I don’t only write sad songs,” Bridgers joked. “This is a mean song,” she said, casting a wry smile at the audience, before strumming the opening chords to “Motion Sickness,” a break-up anthem for the ages.

While Bridgers’ is lauded for her poetic sensibilities, she explained her approach to songwriting tends toward autobiography rather than poetry. “I’m not very good at poetry. I just literally say what happened to me. If I got my heart broken, I’ll just sing, ‘I got my heart broken.’”

Self-deprecation aside, her songs read like stolen glances at a close friend’s diary. Those glances carry a raw emotional weight. During the encore, a friend slowly made her way toward the back of the room. “I didn’t want people to see me cry,” she confessed. She certainly wasn’t alone.

Setlist:

“Smoke Signals”

“Funeral”

“Georgia”

“Would You Rather”

“Chelsea”

“Demi Moore”

“Killer”

“Ask Me To”

“It’ll All Work Out” (Tom Petty Cover)

“Motion Sickness”

“Scott Street”

Encore

“Missed My Heart”

“If It Makes You Happy” (Sheryl Crow Cover)

Andy Witchger (@andywitchger) is a teacher, naturalist, photographer and concert junkie from Minneapolis. You can find his work in City Pages, The Current, Fast Company and on his mom’s refrigerator.

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