Photos and Article By: Jennie Walker
To watch Angelica Garcia and Phoebe Bridgers play a set is to watch two women examine the various aspects of growing up and finding one’s identity. At Port City Music Hall on July 27th, Garcia’s fierce solo vocals provided a perfect compliment to Bridgers' sad and slow observation of love and loss.
Angelica Garcia, joining Phoebe Bridgers for two stops on her debut album tour, treating Portland to a glimpse of what will become her sophomore album. In contrast to her first album, Medicine For Birds, where she consistently worked with the steady beats, Garcia relied on her guitar and her vocals for the majority of the show. She started the show with a simple and soft-spoken “Hey,” but soon started in on effortlessly soaring vocals. Guitar in hand, she proudly demonstrated her heritage on Mexican folk song “La Llorona,” and on her sixth song “Guadalupe,” she repeatedly sang the line, “Like you I was born in this country” over vocals she had looped just seconds before. No longer was she the shy girl who had initially stepped out on stage; rather, she took command of her own songs, demonstrating her mastery of every component of her music.
In Medicine For Birds, Garcia’s chants came in the form of a chorus driving a point home, but at Port City Music Hall, she also used them to build a story. During the second half of her set, she delivered pitch perfect harmonies every time and built up a backtrack using only vocals and finger snaps. Often closing her eyes and letting her head tilt back slightly, she took her time in building each song up, laying spoken lines, hums, and harmonies. Angelica Garcia ended her set with “Big Machine,” a song she described as being “very zen.” Once again, she took her time in laying each backing vocal to build up to a rhythmic and power statement: “the big picture, the big painting, the big machine.” Where Medicine For Birds was a look into growing up and taking chances, a peak into her next musical project felt more like a statement of “this is who I am, and I know where I’m going.”
“Smoke Signals,” the first song on Phoebe Bridgers’ debut album Stranger in the Alps, was also the first song in Bridgers’ set. While Garcia’s set felt like she was charging into the future, Bridgers started with this slower paced song of nostalgic sadness. Stranger in the Alps feels like story, made up of songs that contain lines without rhyme, and Bridgers’ discussions with the crowd between songs added to the idea that the inspiration for these songs were pulled directly from events in her life. “Funeral” was performed directly after “Smoke Signals,” a song about young death and depression so honest and relatable that it makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time.
Yet while Phoebe Bridgers’ songs might be relatable to a vast array of people, Bridgers herself had no fear of alienating people with spoken commentary. She talked about domestic violence (“call someone”), drugs (“don’t ask me about the mushrooms. I face planted into my bed and didn’t exist for 24 hours”), and white guys (“I got an email from a white guy saying he’d feel unsafe at my show. [laughter from crowd]… it’s a $10 ticket. Return it, I don’t care”). Then, she executed a flawless transition into “Steamroller” by saying, “This is very anti-theme of everything I just talked about, but here is a love song, super sad.”
After Steamroller, Phoebe Bridgers brought previous tour mate Julien Baker on stage for a beautifully sung version of Gillian Welch’s “Everything is Free,” a song about the negative effects of music streaming on musician. Like her own songs, Bridgers gravitated towards the sad story contained in lines like “they figured out, we’re gonna do it anyway even if it doesn’t pay.” After the song, Baker exited the stage and Bridgers returned to finish the set with her songs “Motion Sickness” and “Scott Street.”
Together, the two told a story of growing up, love, loss, and figuring out what you stand for through both their music and their personalities. For both artists the audience sat hypnotized by the music. Yet, if you looked close enough, you’d often see a gentle movement in the shoulders of the watchers, swaying in sync to the tale unfolding before them.