Taking the stage at The Anthem recently to introduce her song “Never Said,” Liz Phair eloquently and poignantly told the packed music venue exactly why she was there to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her seminal album Exile in Guyville.
“You know, I was thinking about a lot of things when I got back into this album,” Liz told the crowd at The Anthem. “I really dug down into my past. And I thought about how hard you have to fight when you’re young to make your dreams come true.”
“And you struggle in darkness and in uncertainty and rejection. You go out every night to make yourself feel better and do crazy shit, looking for love. You live and die by the social scene. All you really got at that point is each other. Then, you move beyond it, and you find acceptance and security and everything you wanted, and you realize once you get there that the earlier time was a magical place and a liminal space between youth and adulthood. And some of the best times of your life.”
Cool and relaxed, Phair excused self-assuredness in the anniversary concert at The Anthem on Nov. 25, a date on her 30th anniversary Exile in Guyville Tour, playing through the 18 songs of the album in trackless order. She added a five-song encore of popular tunes from her other albums at the end of the show.
The Exile in Guyville celebration was a well-earned occasion. Liz Phair made a mark when she burst onto radio with her slightly grunge/slightly jangly rock tunes in 1993. The genres that saturated her music were dominated by male voices, and their songs were definitely full of testerone. When Liz entered the scene, she shook the status quo by lending a feminine perspective to the guitar rock of the era.
While many of Exile in Guyville’s songs deal with a female POV, however, some are quite innocent. “Never Said” simply speaks as the attempt of an acquaintance to set the record straight. Other songs, such as the infamous “Fuck and Run” — a song often requested but rarely played in decades past — shares the perspective of a woman who rashly has fallen into bed, seeking temporary solace with a man for the night rather than sticking the stability of a long-term significant other.
“Stanford on Guy,” performed near the end of the main set at The Anthem, perhaps had a foot in both worlds. Nominally, it’s about finding a bit of tranquility while being removed from circumstances. But as part of the overall concept album, the found tranquility can provide peace of mind and perspective on the harried life of a young woman finding herself in a male-dominated scene.
Watch the officially remastered music video for “Stratford-On-Guy” by Liz Phair on Matador’s YouTube channel:
Don’t get me wrong: Liz was there more to rock than to pontificate. She pounded away on her guitar with unabashed talent. And she had even more fun in the encore, starting with “Supernova” from sophomore album Whipsmart (1994) and closing with “Why Can’t I?” from her self-titled fourth album (2003). All along, Liz reminded us that she may have fought for her place in modern rock history, but it was a fight she was destined to win.
Opening for Liz Phair was Los Angeles indie rocker Sabrina Mae Teitelbaum, better known as Bombshell. And Bombshell was a great choice to open the tour, as her spaced-out grunge-rocker jams owe a clear debt to Liz Phair and her peers. Earlier this year, Blondshell released her full-length debut, Blondshell, via Partisan Records.
As Blondshell, Sabrina materialized as a focused, smoky presence, and she sang in an appealing, steady pace at The Anthem. She enraptured the audience with an 11-song set that drew heavily from her record, including the reflective, easygoing “Olympus,” which also has a very catchy melody.
Watch Blondshell perform “Olympus” live for Austin City Limits Radio on YouTube:
At The Anthem, Blondshell also surprised with a mindset cover of “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre, suggesting that she isn’t so easily pigeonholed into one genre.
In addition to writing some worthwhile songs, Blondshell also has been hard at work on the road! This year alone, she appeared at Black Cat as opener for Suki Waterhouse. Not long ago, she headlined her own sold-out show at DC9. And she returned to DC for a third time in 2023 to open Liz Phair. Sabrina is clearly determined, and we undoubtedly will see a lot more of her.
Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville Tour continues through Dec. 9, when it wraps in Cleveland, Ohio! Catch her if you can.
Here are some photos of Blondshell opening Liz Phair at The Anthem on Nov. 25, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.
And here are some photos of Liz Phair headlining The Anthem on Nov. 25, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.