By Anna Tarasova
After discovering Alice Phoebe Lou, I immediately fell in love with her sound and lyrics. It felt like she took the little thoughts in my brain about yearning for love and put them behind some of the grooviest instrumentals I have heard in the modern music scene. From her energetic, upbeat songs like “Witches” and “Dirty Mouth” to her soft, sultry songs like “Only When I” and “Lover//Over the Moon,” her lyricism and musical production is nothing short of greatness.
Back in the fall, I bought tickets to her show on a whim, after I saw a friend in New York City at one of her shows having a blast. After the FOMO-ness (Fear of Missing Out) set in, I immediately looked up any and all of her show dates. I saw that she was playing through the Noisepop Festival in San Francisco, so I snatched tickets as soon as I could physically pull out my credit card. Luckily, I checked my calendar in February a week before the show and reminded myself of the tickets I had bought a few months prior. With the stress of the quarter building up, I knew a Thursday night show in the city would be a nice break from the student grind. After spending at least an hour deciding on an outfit for a brisk city night, I drove up from Santa Cruz to The Chapel in SF on Valencia Street.
Although I showed up to the show almost an hour late, there was still a line formed outside with an eager crowd ready for the night ahead of them. Going alone to shows used to be a big fear of mine, in terms of how I would be perceived by strangers and overall general anxiety of going alone to big events. This was probably my third or fourth show by myself in San Francisco, so I felt a bit more confident talking to the strangers around me. I befriended a new Alice Phoebe Lou fan, who shared the same first name and last name first letter as I do! We walked through the entrance of the Chapel SF and were almost immediately in the crowd. The opener, Sam Burton, was finishing up his last few songs and had a blast talking back with the audience. I wish I was able to see his full set as he looked like a sweet dude with a guitar, who sang some beautiful and emotional songs. But alas, he gave his goodbyes and thank you’s and the excitement for the night ahead began to set in.
Alice Phoebe Lou walked out with her band, and the crowd was ecstatic for the intimate (venue-wise and song-wise) night in front of them. Before they began their set, the band tuned up their instruments and played around with the volume levels. This started a few minutes of back and forth between Alice Phoebe Lou and the sound technician trying to find the perfect level for her microphone, as the audience just watched in a respectful silence. After Alice was ready to begin, her band started the intro to “Only When I” and chills were shot up all over my body. The band was grooving out to the music, while Alice was singing beautifully with such power and emotionally strumming her guitar for this swaying crowd of a few hundred people. After that powerful first song, she began to do another slight back and forth with the sound technician once again, and addressed the audience. The South African musician talked about their journey to Los Angeles the night prior and the last time she played in San Francisco. She talked with such charm that the audience became reactive with her spunky little jokes about California. A member of the audience yelled out very loudly “HOW ARE YOU?” and Alice Phoebe Lou yelled right back to them “I’M GOOD!!,” the audience erupted in giggles.
Her setlist mainly consisted of songs from her 2021 releases, Glow and Child’s Play, with a few of her hit singles sprinkled in throughout. She mentioned later in the show that the reason she wasn’t playing her older stuff was because she felt like she had outgrown them and needed to move on. This felt like such a personal statement that I feel like most artists aren’t so open about. In a few of the more upbeat songs, she ditched her guitar and gave a full-on dance performance, like she was singing karaoke to her own music. The audience danced along and overall had a good time. She would stop in between her songs and ask the audience if they were doing ok as little check-ins. At some point, her microphone completely went out and the audience watched as her band began trying to fix it. Again engaging with an across the room dialogue with the sound technician at the back of the venue.
Closer to the end of her set, her band left the stage and we were just left with a few stripped-down songs from Alice and her sweet guitar. The disco ball began turning and filled the venue with little twinkly lights. Many couples began pulling each other a bit closer and friends began hugging each other to enjoy the rawness of Alice’s voice and truthful lyrics. It felt fitting that the venue was an old chapel. I felt like she was preaching to the people who are a little bit awkward and love super deeply, which was one of the reasons I was so drawn to her music in the first place. After being soothed by the slowed down songs of Alice’s repertoire, the band came back out and performed her most popular hits. Alice Phoebe Lou began jumping around with her guitar, while the audience sang her lyrics with passion. She closed off the show with the song “Witches,” which started my slight Alice Phoebe Lou obsession. I jumped and danced with the audience as they screamed out the words to the groovy song. She thanked the audience and informed them that she would be at the merch table to sign things.
I was already planning on buying a CD from the merch table, and it was even better to hear that Alice would be there herself to talk with her fans. I headed to the back where the merch table lies and a small blonde-haired woman ran past me on the way to the table. The small crowd there quickly realized that this was Alice Phoebe Lou herself. I bought a “Glow” CD, which is a beautiful and raw album about wanting to be loved. My personal favorites on that album are “Dirty Mouth”, “Dusk” and “Lonely Crowd.” I stood in line waiting for her little signature on my new CD, and we briefly chatted about being Cancer suns and what there is to do in the Bay Area. I recommended that one of the places she should stop by was Santa Cruz, as her vibe felt like sunshine. She was the sweetest artist and I will definitely be keeping a close eye onto what she does next.