There’s always something special about walking into a sold out show at First Ave. When Better Oblivion Community Center announced their tour, they were set to play at the Fine Line Cafe, but sold out so quickly that the show was moved to First Avenue… and then sold out again almost immediately. So, clearly, everyone who was in the building for this event was excited to be there.
The show was 18+, but it did feel like the majority of the audience was very close that 18 years old mark… so I felt especially old as I walked in and made a beeline for the merch table. The designs of all of the shirts available were impeccably clever, and I had to make myself walk away after just one purchase so I didn’t spend my rent money on band shirts.
After putting my wallet away, I struggled with the ever-present question of where to stand. I opted for the balcony, planted my feet firmly in the best spot I could find, and vowed not to move from that spot until I had heard every Better Oblivion Community Center song live.
First up was Christian Lee Hutson, americana singer from Los Angeles. I had heard lots of hype around him over the last few weeks, so I was very excited to see him perform- and I wasn’t disappointed. To be honest, he was exactly the type of musician I would want to hear upon entering a super crowded venue. The second I got home, I found myself looking up his music on Youtube, and I haven’t stopped listening since.
Next up was Lala Lala, straight out of Chicago. They’ve played Minneapolis a few times recently, so it was no surprise that the crowd knew lots of their music already. Lala Lala’s set felt short and sweet, but I could have listened for hours more.
The setup time for BOCC felt like hours, and any time there was a lull in the house music that was playing over the speakers as we waited, the crowd erupted into roaring applause, just in case it was time. Finally, at 10:00 on the dot, First Ave’s screen started retracting and the stage lit up with the shape of a building in the background, clearly this was the Better Oblivion Community Center. There were intricate glowing markings all over it, and “It Will End In Tears” scribbled right at the top of the roof. The lighting all night was intense and beautiful, and catered well to each individual song played.
They opened up with “My City,” and spiraled into a set of all of their songs, and some amazing covers. Right after fan-favorite “Dylan Thomas,” came the first Bright Eyes song of the evening- “Bad Blood.” Hearing Phoebe Bridgers’ delicate vocals weave into a song I had been listening to for years brought a whole new life and beauty to the song.
There wasn’t too much chatting from the stage during the set. There were “hello’s” and “thank you’s,” and Conor introduced their backing band and mentioned the merch table but was unsure of what was left, joking that he was really concerned about how much they had left and to just ask him if you needed anything in a different size. I told you those shirts were special!
My personal favorite Better Oblivion Community Center song that was played live was “Service Road,” which came about halfway through their set. It’s a slower paced song, and I found myself having to hold back tears but was proud that I made it through the song without real tears.
Those same tears came out, though, a few songs later when they covered Bright Eyes cult-classic “Lua.” Bridgers started the song out alone, her haunting voice setting the scene of the song perfectly. When Conor joined in, I was transported back to 2005 and became that super emo teen once again. I felt comfort in seeing some other people around me getting visibly emotional, too.
The chemistry between the two of them on stage was amazing. It was my first time seeing Phoebe Bridgers live, but I have seen Conor Oberst perform solo, with Bright Eyes, and with Desaparecidos (a very politically-charged and unfortunately still relevant project) and seeing him there, at First Ave, he seemed happier than ever before. It made me smile to see the man behind lots of the songs that have helped me find happiness and not feel alone look genuinely happy himself.
They left and came back for an encore, where they started out with “Scott Street,” a Phoebe Bridgers solo song… which was possibly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard performed live. The final song of the night was Dominos, which is also the final song on the Better Oblivion Community Center album.
Once the show was over, I lost all good judgement and went back to the merch table to spend all my money. I left feeling grateful for the warmest Friday we’ve had in months, and the opportunity to have seen my favorite new project live.