As far as venues go, there are few as breathtaking as The Piece Hall. Many famous faces have graced the stage, erected in the courtyard of Halifax’s historic former-cloth hall, since it first began hosting concerts in 2018.
Five years since Father John Misty performed its first major music event, the striking Grade I listed building – its iconic spire towering over the tranquil Yorkshire town – has delighted visitors with acts such as Kaiser Chiefs, Duran Duran, Paloma Faith and more, whose music has playfully ricocheted across the town on otherwise peaceful summer evenings.
The Piece Hall now has a reputation of curating stellar summer line-ups. 2023 is no exception. Orbital, The Charlatans & Johnny Marr are still to come, and shows from Limp Bizkit, George Ezra, The Cult and more have already impacted thousands of music fans in the UK this summer.
On Wednesday 23rd August, during the site’s final week of events, we were lucky to bear witness to an incredible all-female line-up, headlined by indie rock supergroup boygenius – with support from the incredibly talented Ethel Cain.
Comprised of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus & Julien Baker, boygenius are at the tail end of their huge world tour. The breadth of it is truly astounding for a band whose debut LP the record was only released in March of this year. But considering the tenure of each band member as a solo artist before the inception of boygenius, it’s not surprising that their acclaimed debut – plus an EP released back in 2018 – was all the convincing fans needed to snap up tickets to a show.
As the crowds began to pile into an overcast Piece Hall, the buzz of anticipation vibrating around the enclosed courtyard was undeniable. Support act Ethel Cain kicked off proceedings. An esteemed singer-songwriter herself, Ethel Cain’s debut record Preacher’s Daughter was released just ten months before boygenius’.
She’s the perfect fit to accompany Bridgers, Dacus & Baker on this stage. The crowd were engaged and welcoming as she performed a handful of songs, made up largely of her 2022 LP, with one throwback to her Inbred EP from the year previous. It’s clear she was already in the presence of some hardcore fans and acquired some more during her time touring with boygenius. Cain did a truly fine job of opening the night and warming up an already eager crowd.
As Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” crashed from the speakers without warning, and drizzling rain became a permanent set piece to the evening, boygenius appeared on screen to rapturous applause. A no doubt deliberate contrast to their setlist opener, the band broke into the ethereal harmonies of the acapella “Without You Without Them” backstage.
They walked out as the song came to an end and burst straight into the breakout single of the record “$20”. The energy within The Piece Hall spiked. Followed by the stomping rhythm of “Satanist”, it’s only by song four that we were given time to catch our breath as Bridgers led us into the haunting “Emily I’m Sorry”. Baker and Dacus provided their strong vocals in the form of delicate harmonies, which is truly the most impressive quality that boygenius have in their arsenal.
They flexed those famous, spine-tingling harmonies throughout the show, and notably in latest single “Cool About It”. It was during songs like this that the crowd become an unofficial fourth member of boygenius, their enthusiastic contribution acting as a choir for the band.
The atmosphere emanating from fans throughout the show felt simultaneously gleeful and aching. The camera panned across the crowd during “Souvenir” from their self-titled EP, seeking out expressive faces. The crowd were feeling every chord with smiles on faces and tears in eyes, clinging on to every word and embracing every emotion. Hands were clutched to chests and thrown emphatically skyward with every lyric. The whole evening felt like a meeting of old friends, despite the thousands of strangers that surrounded us.
It was in the gut-wrenching, peaceful moments of the evening where the band shone brightest. Dacus strolled past the crowd, collecting flowers from fans during the beautifully lamenting “We’re In Love”. Bridgers asked for phones to be put away before singing the painfully personal “Letters To An Old Poet”. During the quiet, one can appreciate just how special boygenius are. But, the show was equal parts delicate and raucous; there were plenty of moments where the crowd get the opportunity to scream to their hearts’ content – the loudest of which came from belting out “kill the bourgeoisie” with Baker on “Satanist”.
The evening wound down, and after a setlist that included every single song in the band’s discography (plus a solo song from each band member), the rain that had persisted in mists throughout the evening began to downpour dramatically as the trio began their final song of the main set to the oxymoronic elation and disappointment of the crowd: “Not Strong Enough”. Their two-song encore included classics from the 2018 EP (“Ketchum, ID” and “Salt In The Wound”). And with that, boygenius’ two-night residency at The Piece Hall ended.
The nature of a supergroup like boygenius means you can’t help but feel as though their time with us is fleeting. None of us can be sure what their lifespan as a band will be. Once the tour is over, how long will it be before the three of them reconnect?
As joyful and comfortable as they appear together, they also exist as individual entities outside the confines of the group. For superfans, I’m sure it’s a troubling thought. But it felt as though everyone left The Piece Hall satisfied that they’d been able to experience magic that night in the form of boygenius, even if it might be the only chance they get. At least, for a while. In a way, that was what made it feel even more remarkable to witness.
Without You Without Them
Emily I'm Sorry
Cool About It
Bite the Hand
Play Video (Lucy Dacus)
Favor (Julien Baker)
Graceland Too (Phoebe Bridgers)
Me & My Dog
We're in Love
Letter to an Old Poet
Not Strong Enough
Salt in the Wound