Better Oblivion Community Center : An intimate night at The Grey Eagle
What It’s Like To Attend A Better Oblivion Community Center Meeting
You might know Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, but have you heard of their devastating, shreddable, collaborative indie-alternative-electro-punk-rock band, Better Oblivion Community Center? If not, we’re about to fill you in on what you’re missing out on. On Friday night, we attended a Better Oblivion Community Center “meeting”. Held at Asheville’s Grey Eagle, the indie rock show was everything we could hope for.
Conor Oberst: king of indie rock, Nebraska native, and member of more bands than you can count on one hand (Bright Eyes, Commander Venus, the Magentas, Park Ave., Desaparecidos, the Faint, Monsters of Folk, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band) brings edge and musical innovation to the superduo. While on the other hand, Phoebe Bridgers: beautifully melancholy, up and coming, might look soft, but could probably take you down in a fight, and highly acclaimed, helps provide lyrical wisdom as well as moving vocals that form Better Oblivion Community Center’s sound.
Performing commonly together and friends since 2016, Bridgers and Oberst had always tossed around the idea of forming a band. But it wasn’t until last year that they began working on the project and until January 24, 2019 that an album was released. Five days after their debut album release, they announced a string of North American and European “meetings” that would make up their tour. With the idea that Better Oblivion Community Center is a fictional support group meeting center, the two set off to host meetings. Bringing along some of their greatest friends, Christian Lee Hutson and Lala Lala, the sold out show at The Grey Eagle was one that will remain unforgettable.
Opening the night was Americana musician, Christian Lee Hutson. Walking onstage with solely himself and a guitar, he quietly approached the audience and eased them into the night as people were filling in. Playing heart wrenching songs like “I Just Can’t Fucking Do It Anymore” and “Northsiders”, he had the audience captured, all sugar coating aside. Equally as comical as he was talented, Hutson joked around after his first few songs that he would continue to play “rock n roll” songs for the remainder of his set. As someone encouraged him to “shred it” from the crowd, he couldn’t help but oblige.
West moved and grooved along to the beat of the music with songs like “Destroyer” as she shook her orange/pink hair. Showing her love for Asheville, their vibe, and specifically, their Moog store, it became evident that Asheville was an anticipated stop on the tour.
Hyping the crowd up before Better Oblivion Community Center, West received a great response from the enthusiastic crowd.
Better Oblivion Community Center appropriately kicked the night off with “Didn’t Know What I Was In For”, the first track off their debut album and the first song the duo wrote together. Starting the night with a depressive tone, their brutal honesty of mental hospitals and refugees quickly awoke the audience. Then diving straight into “Sleepwalkin’”, the pace was picked up as Bridgers and Oberst quickly strummed their guitars, speeding up the original version.
It quickly became evident that the duo is a musical match made in heaven. Bridgers’ delicate and soft tone mixes beautifully with Oberst’s more trembling and harsh voice making their band sonically pleasing and addictive for any listener.
Throughout the night, many of the artist’s solo songs were incorporated into the setlist, however, Bridgers and Oberst put a spin on it. Instead of holding the spotlight on one person, Bridgers would sing a Bright Eyes or Oberst song, and then Oberst would sing a song from Bridgers’ discography. This way, the fans were able to hear some of their favorite songs but in a nontraditional and refreshing way. It kept the night alive and it was entertaining to see each of their separate renditions.
For “Exception to the Rule”, a nearby stagehand brought out dollar store lawn chairs for the artists as well as beach balls. While the duo ironically opened with the lyrics “You need an occupation, to warrant a vacation”, the stunt couldn’t have been better planned. For those that had the same humor as Bridgers and Oberst, the moment was iconic.
As most of the songs Better Oblivion Community Center played were upbeat and angsty, it made the moments where there was a lull, even more special. For “Chesapeake”, the crowd’s breath was nearly taken away. A song that came to be as Bridgers was trying to write about the irony of making music and Oberst walked into the room tripping on mushrooms, it was easily one of the most special moments of the night.
Bridgers and Oberst refrained from conversing with the crowd during the night except to address the crowd member that yelled at Lala Lala to “get off the stage” during her set. Bridgers wished that he got a UTI and Oberst threatened to kick him to the curb. Standing up for one of their favorite artists, the crowd cheered. After all, 499 of the attendees enjoyed Lala Lala’s music, but it was important that the one who didn’t, and rudely expressed it, was called out.
Singing “My City” before leaving for the encore, the crowd did not let down, singing every word, making a 500 capacity venue feel double the size. Returning with Bridgers’ “Scott Street”, Oberst let loose, dancing interpretively, swinging his mic around, and allowing audience members to sing the full chorus solo into the mic. As the crowd roared in encouragement, the vibe was kept continuously for the remainder of the show. Ending on “Dominos”, a song discussing death, the audience took in the moment before a final goodbye.
If there’s one thing to be said it’s that Better Oblivion Community Center should be on the list of bands to see before you die. It’s refreshing to witness real artists play real music that they’re passionate about and believe in. Attend one of their meetings, we promise you won’t regret it.