by, Jilleen Barrett, Kyla Guilfoil & Anna Woods, A&E Editor, Asst. News Editor & Editor-in-Chief
Springfest returned to Manhattan College with a virtual performance by Phoebe Bridgers, the 4-time Grammy-nominated indie-rock singer. The Student Government planned the online performance to include question and answer sessions with Bridgers between songs. Bridgers performed an hour set, switching between multiple acoustic guitars and a bass.
John Bennett, director of student engagement told The Quadrangle via email that planning for the annual event is a year-long process.
“Planning for Springfest is really a year-long discussion – the start date to discuss it is really the first day the VP of Social Life is elected it always seems,” Bennett wrote.” “This year honestly it was easier to plan than in the past – but for all the wrong reasons! But knowing that we couldn’t do large gatherings and the typical carnival or barbecue on the quad, without having to plan the logistics for those events, we kind of knew what we were able to provide the entire time.”
Despite the challenges that the pandemic brought, the night was a success. Bennett commended the work that Student Government put into the event and other virtual events this past year, which helped the event go smoothly.
“Student Government has done an exceptional job hosting virtual lectures and concerts, and what has seemed like almost a weekly basis at some points during the year,” Bennett wrote. “So by this point, we had to down to a science how to run these type of events.”
According to Bennett, selecting the headliner for the concert is “solely up to the students.”
“So Student Government and more specifically the VP of Social Life heads this aspect up, comes up with an initial wish list,” Bennett wrote. “Then we take that initial list and speak with agents, go back and forth, and the list gets shorter, we see who’s realistic and who’s not, who’s available and who’s not, and then the students really end up giving their blessing for the final decision on who they’d like to pursue. For the most part, the process remained the same this year as years past in that aspect.”
Caroline King, sophomore international studies and history major, had the opportunity to host the event along with the student government Vice President of Social Life Isabel Gardner. King told The Quadrangle that Gardner knew she was a fan of the singer and invited her to ask Bridgers questions during her set.
“It was so awesome to get to talk to Phoebe, of course, I was a little bit nervous but once we got started it honestly felt like talking to a friend,” King said. “She’s just so relatable and chill, we had such a great talk about different music artists we both love like The 1975 and The Cure and I’m actually still in shock that I had the privilege of getting to talk to such an amazing artist.”
Bridgers entered the Zoom call sitting before a galaxy-themed tapestry and wearing her signature skeleton sweatshirt, performing solo for the evening. She was welcomed by King and Gardner before launching into her first performance. The opening song was “Garden Song,” the second track on her 2020 album, ‘“Punisher.”
King and Gardner then prompted her with a few questions, leading Briders to share her latest music inspirations. Bridgers said that lately she has been thinking about Brittney Howard in her own writing, and that her last album was a “masterpiece.”
“I think I create the most music when I have people to steal from, you know, like when I hear a song or whatever, that I really love and wish I’d written, then, then it makes me write,” Bridgers said.
However, Bridgers also shared that sometimes lyrical music can be too much for her to bear.
“I listened to a lot of instrumental music lately, because I find music too emotional sometimes like I have to really focus like I’m watching a movie if I am hearing something good, so instrumental music just feels like a great answer to that,” Bridgers shared during the session.
Bridgers transitioned back to her music, playing one of her most streamed songs from the “Punisher” album, “Kyoto”, before breaking into an anecdote at a previous show.
“I always think about random bull**** when I’m playing, like my mind just kind of wanders but if I think about the music, then I forget words to songs I play all the time,” Bridgers said, laughing. “Actually one time I did that in San Francisco, I would like, I was playing like my most popular song, and just like blacked out somehow on stage, like just had a full, just, like I was astral projecting or something one moment and then I realized that I had like sung entire first chorus twice. Like I was just doing it again. It was fun, people just laughed, but I felt like I was on acid, so weird.”
The slip up didn’t seem to phase her, though, and her delicate voice led off the next song, “Moon Song,” soon after. King and Gardner also took the opportunity to ask Bridgers about her collaborations with other artists, specifically Matthew Healy of the band The 1975. Bridgers told the hosts about her down-to-earth experience with the “handsome pop stars,” citing Healy to be “funny and self aware.” Bridgers also shared that she was actually sick when she recorded the vocals for their collaboration, a song called “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” on The 1975’s latest album, “Notes On A Conditional Form.”
“I was actually really sick that day that I recorded those vocals,” Bridgers said. “Yeah, I always get sick on days of shows, like, I had had to do steroids for a show in London. And so, I don’t know if anybody’s ever had sinus infections, and you shouldn’t ever do steroids unless you’re going on stage, and it’s like a full on emergency, but it was my only show in like six months and of course I got super sick like the day before. And then, I was just like, it turns you into like a god. But then the next day you wake up and your voice is gone, your immune system is s***, and your eyes are like so puffy, like don’t ever do it. But that’s how I met The 1975, which was an awesome story.”
This anecdote added to the very casual and lighthearted conversation Bridgers engaged with during the event. She stuck to very authentic introductions to her songs, introducing “Chinese Satellite” as a song about “jogging, and how there is no God”, and then the next song, “Funeral”, with the simple phrase, “This one’s another big bummer.”
Bridgers also did not avoid answering authentically to King and Gardner’s questions throughout the event, later discussing the implications of politics upon famous performers.
“I feel like my rule with it is like, if it impedes your ability to enjoy it, then don’t listen to it, you know, which sometimes happens with Morrissey,” Bridgers said. “Like, I can make excuses for his like earlier music and be like ‘he was an icon’ and then, like, once he started getting like weird and alt right I’m like, it’s not enjoyable to listen to this, that’s all I’m thinking about, whereas The Cure is just pure enjoyment. People with shady beliefs, and also abusers– if we didn’t listen to abusers, like, so much music would be gone, which is so f***ed up, but it’s true. I think it’s an individual choice, and I mean I have a lyric about the John Lennon thing where it’s like, I’m not saying you can’t listen to John Lennon, I’m saying you have to acknowledge that just because he’s a genius doesn’t mean he didn’t hurt people, you know, like, people make so many excuses for people who are f***ed up and really talented.”
Bridgers shifted then to respond to King and Gardner’s questions about her own career during this tumultuous time. Bridgers shared that she realized that she takes a lot of pleasure in structure, and that the pandemic resulted in much of her structure suddenly disappearing. She said she feels like she has turned herself into a “petri dish,” where she has added in all of structure to her life that she hadn’t noticed before.
For her music, especially, Bridgers has also been trying to grapple with the loss of traditional structure due to the pandemic.
“I still have no idea how many people actually like my music,” Bridgers told the hosts. “Like that’s not in like a weird, martyry way, but usually you just look around a room and you’re like ‘oh damn, people like my record’[at shows]. But with like the ethereal internet, like there are f***ing hot musicians with 40 million followers and nobody likes that records or whatever, like nobody buys them or their listeners on Spotify, there’s just no real-life metric right now for what the world looks like for me, so that’s been true.”
Bridger’s comment was a deep look into breakout musicians of 2020, who haven’t had the opportunity to tour or perform their new music to actual crowds of fans in person. This is definitely the case for Bridgers, who was nominated for her first Grammys this year in four categories, including Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance (Kyoto), Best Rock Song (Kyoto), and Best Alternative Music Album (Punisher).
Despite this, Bridgers wants to hold off on live performances until there aren’t any necessary COVID guidelines.
“I think my fear is that I go back and it’s like half or something like I just don’t want to play like a socially distance f***ing concert, it would give me so much anxiety,” said Bridgers. “It would be like, even if it’s like small and it’s only people who are actually vaccinated, which is very polarizing because of class issues and whatever, like I have a problem with like a rich old white ladies who won’t get vaccinated because they think that Steve Jobs is poisoning us, but like I do think that there’s a huge issue with getting the word out about vaccines and like trust in the government, are you kidding me like, there’re so many reasons why certain groups of people shouldn’t trust the government so anyway there’s like a huge rant, but I just want to play music again when it’s like none of that s*** is on the table, you know, like when it’s just the music.”
Throughout the night, Bridgers pointed out social issues in her responses, indicating an awareness for her platform as well as acknowledging the complex issues that face society as we attempt to reenter the world.
Bridgers transitioned back to her music, again changing out guitars and tuning into the correct key. She opened the next performance with a quote she had heard from a journalist, saying, “A journalist said this, which I really, really like and it made me cry reading it because it’s so true. And I didn’t realize it when I was writing it, but it’s not a love song, it’s a song about the effects of love on a person who is in love, and it hurts me.”
She began singing “Me & My Dog”, a song from an album titled “boygenius,” which Bridgers recorded and sang with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, who are both indie-rock singers as well. The song is one of six from the 2018 EP.
To finish out the performance, Bridgers turned first to her most streamed song “Motion Sickness” from her 2017 album “Stranger in the Alps” before slipping into her closing track, “The End is Near” from “Punisher” which shifted to a minor key over which Bridgers harmonized in a crescendoing style, concluding the night with her mesmerizing voice.