Show Review: Better Oblivion Community Center @ Stubb’s – 4/9
Tuesday night, the Better Oblivion Community Center graced us with their presence at Stubb’s, alongside the company of Lala Lala and Christian Lee Hutson for the first real Stubb’s Sweat of the season. One of the most buzzed about acts of 2019, BOCC is a cult of sadness, with its two founders, Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers at the helm of the vessel of sadness. What we got was a great night for fans of both artists individually as well as new fans of the project. Read past the jump to get my brief thoughts on the night.
Sadly, I managed to get to Stubb’s a bit too late to catch Christian Lee Hutson’s set, but did catch all of Lala Lala’s opening slot. Last year, Lala Lala, the moniker for Lillie West, releasedThe Lamb, on Hardly Art Records. It was a solid record, with great tracks like “Water Over Sex” and “Destroyer,” so I was stoked to hear how these songs made their transition from record to live setting. Overall, Lala Lala did not disappoint, and gave us a few cuts of their highly emotive grungey rock. My personal favorite number that the band did was “Water Over Sex,” with live drums–West’s vocals shine live as she meanders from slight falsetto to soaring chorus. I will say, I wanted a bit more punch on “Destroyer,” which seemed kind of small performed live. That said, I would gladly watch more sets from this band.
After a brief pause the main act walked onto the stage to roaring applause and cheers–and rightfully so. Oberst, a mainstay in indie rock for years, and Bridgers, only one album in to her solo career and already part of two supergroups, have loyal devotees. They opened with “My City,” which is a rollicking indie folk rock tune that highlights the loveliness of the combination of these artists. Oberst’s nasally murmur and Bridgers’ angelic register fit together so gracefully, even when they’re screaming their hearts out at the song’s climax, that when they separate, you have to take a minute to readjust your perception. Both vocals are distinctly chilling apart, but together they’re somewhat warming, offering a comfort in a harmony.
The rest of the night, the group rolled through the tracks off their lone record and borrowed from each other’s catalogues as well as a few outside covers. A true highlight for me was “Forest Lawn,” which is a gorgeous and winding tune that relies on the strength of the songwriting. I also really loved the band’s rendition of Bridgers’ “Funeral,” as a punk rock track instead of a melancholy and quiet number, with Oberst leading the vocal charge instead of Bridgers. The tradeoff on vocals when covering each other’s tracks made it clear that both are massive fans of their counterparts, which is reinforced with their stage chemistry. Frequently, they would look over at each other in earnest appreciation and shred through guitar parts with heads together. Though their songs may be pretty dark, it was very clear that they both very much enjoy doing this collaboration, and it was delightful show to witness.
The only negative takeaway from the night has really nothing to do with the band and more to do with the change in venue. When this show was first announced, it was slated for the Mohawk, a much more intimate venue for the kind of tunes that BOCC crafted on this album. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much it could have benefitted from a smaller stage, less folks in the crowd and an overall ‘club’ feel. I’m pleased they were able to sell out the beast of Stubb’s, but the massiveness of the venue offered a few more distractions from the wholly devastatingly beautiful music that these two create.
*PSA* While it’s not summer yet in Austin, it’s still hot! Stubb’s traps in the crowd heat and eliminates any whisper of a breeze! Please, please, please hydrate yourself — I witnessed two different people pass out in the crowd roughly 5 minutes apart from each other! Be safe! Drink water with your alcohol!