Billed as an alternative to the Summer festival design of multiple stages, the Re:SET Festival rolled into Merriweather Post Pavilion Friday afternoon with a packed three-day schedule but “one stage with no conflicts.” Line-ups for each trio of dates rotate, and each day of the three-day festival is curated by the headlining artist with Friday’s kick-off at Merriweather hosted by the supergroup boygenius.
What feels different about Re:SET that becomes apparent as you set foot into Merriweather is the feeling of a regular concert event but all the trappings of a festival. And there’s no running from one stage to another to catch your favorite artists.
Kicking off the afternoon on June 16 was DC’s own Bartees Strange whose most recent album, Farm to Table, has made the best of lists last year. I had managed to miss Bartees Strange so many times over the past few years that I had almost given up, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Bartees commanded the stage and even played a cover of The National’s “About Today.” But the biggest reactions came from his singles “Heavy Heart” and “Boomer.”
Even though the opening acts may have been curated by boygenius there was a good variety of styles. Baltimore-area producer Dijon Duenas, better known as simply Dijon, took the stage next. Interspersed between these beat-laden pop songs were orchestral washes that were impressive.
The music of Clairo Cottrill, who goes by Clairo, has really taken off in the past year, buoyed by the leap from her first LP, Immunity, to 2021’s Sling. The sophomore album is much more subtle and uses layers of instrumentation that was in full effect at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. In addition to Cottrill, the stage was packed with two sax players, guitars, drums, and keyboards. All that musical talent made for a lush and compelling set.
As the evening progressed at Merriweather Post Pavilion, there was a feeling of anticipation in the crowd. Most of those at Merriweather, including myself, had not had the opportunity to see boygenius as a group perform before. Then as the screen above the stage lit up it showed the trio of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus backstage as members of their band took their places. The trio began singing “Within You, Without Them” acapella — part warm-up, part hymn. Having witnessed each artist individually, boygenius is certainly more than the sum of its parts. The way those three-part harmonies flow effortlessly gives you the feeling this group wasn’t something just pieced together, but, rather, something that was destined to exist.
There certainly are moments — think of the Beatles or, personal fave, Sloan — where you know which member wrote the song. As the band started on “$20” you could see Julien Baker’s imprint clear as day, but the way each supported each other – musically and sometimes even physically as the trio ran across the stage into each other in displays of pure energy — it all felt like a true collaboration.
Taking a rare time to reflect in between songs, Dacus and Bridgers mused, “I had a weird dream. And sometimes I have a weird dream when you have a weird dream.”
There were the heavier, rocking songs, like “Satanist” but then you were given these seemingly sweet numbers like “Leonard Cohen” when those perfect harmonies kick in and you get lost until the end comes along and you’re back on the ground.
And, of course, there were those songs the crowd had been waiting to hear like the single from their self-titled EP, “Me & My Dog,” where it felt like everyone was screaming after hearing just those first strummed chords.
Watch boygenius perform “Not Strong Enough” live on Jimmy Kimmel Live via YouTube:
As a testament to the strong songwriting and ability to draw on each others strengths, the songs on the recently released debut, The Record, is replete some of each artist’s best. Songs like “Not Strong Enough,” are anthems where everyone in the place were singing along to the refrain, “Always an angel, never a god.” And the last song of the set, “Ketchum, ID” showcased each voice as they took turns verse by verse to then come together in that beautiful three-part harmony on the chorus. Just the three of them along with Phoebe Bridgers’ finger picked acoustic guitar.
As the trio returned to the stage they played songs from their own solo records, starting with Dacus’s “Please Stay” and then on to Baker’s “Favor” and ending the evening wit Bridgers’s “Graceland Too.”
Although all good things must come to an end, boygenius will return to Merriweather Post Pavilion in October for the All Things Go Music Festival as they wind their way back after Re:SET.
Here are more photos of boygenius performing at the Re:SET Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.
And here are more photos of Clairo performing at the Re:SET Festival Day 1 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
And here are more photos of Dijon performing at the Re:SET Festival Day 1 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
And here are more photos of Bartees Strange opening the Re:SET Festival Day 1 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.