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If you didn’t hear, the boys are back and Acton Town is prepping for the ultimate takeover. Roads are closed and a flurry of tote bags and Boygenius merch shirts flow into The Old Cricket Pitch in Gunnersbury Park. 

Musical hosts-meets-headliners Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus are no strangers to London, each playing sold-out shows last year. Since then, The Record secured the band a first-ever number one slot on the charts which, of course, gave way to a die-hard cult following. West London’s Gunnersbury Park marks Boygenius’ largest show to date, yet the outdoor festival feels unimaginably intimate like a sweaty set in your favourite shoebox venue. 

Opening the festival, Irish singer-songwriter Soak (Bridie Monds-Watson) builds on the buzz already brewing on Gunnersbury’s grounds. Leading with their soft rock-leaning sound, the surrounding crowd lazily takes in their tunes, swaying along in the sunshine. Next up, US-born Ethel Cain aka Hayden Anhedönia, a rising gothcore artist, sweeps on stage kitted out in an all-American outfit with her blouse and Converse donning her country’s flag. An eager crowd of girls, gays and honourably boyfriends and dads all crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the unpinnable Cain. Bringing a slightly milder set, Cain’s return to London saw her shift from the intimate spaces of Omeara and Heaven to one of her biggest audiences to date. 

And, here, at Gunnersbury, the breakout star has no trouble adjusting to her ever-growing audience. Opening with the setlist staple ‘A House In Nebraska’, a dark and saccharine lament on losing the sense of home, the singer finds refuge in her cult-following crowd. Stadium-ready pop anthem ‘American Teenager’ proves a highlight, with Cain running down to the front of the crowd and fans chanting the chorus back at her like it’s the queer national anthem. It’s clear from the few tracks alone that Cain is more than a support act on the line-up. Wrapping up her set, the artist leans into the well-practised close-outs, ‘Sunbleached Flies’ and fan-favourite ‘Crush’, rather than swapping in purgative album-closer ‘Strangers’ or newly released single, ‘Famous Last Words’.

MUNA on stage at Gunnersbury Park

Pop trio MUNA (Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson, Josette Maskin) burst on stage with ‘What I Want’ transforming Gunnersbury Park into a sanctity of queer self-expression. A punchy mix of tempo hitters from their sophomore record, Saves The World, and their self-titled release pulls together a euphoric palette of joyful tunes. ‘Number One Fan’ and ‘Stayaway’ prove the band’s reputation as seamless live performers, while mellower moments showcase the collective’s ability to lean into the emotionality of their music. Standout tracks ‘Home By Now’ and ‘Anything But Me’ land with fans and new listeners alike but, of course, the culmination of MUNA’s set sealed the deal. With their double-up sign-off of ‘I Know A Place’ and ‘Silk Chiffon’, fans are treated to a Boygenius edit of both hits. A vision of queer chemistry and joy, both bands won over the crowd with their gleeful rendition of the beloved tracks. 

Boygenius closing out their Gunnersbury Park set

And, now, it’s Boygenius time. As ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ starts, there is nothing but unrestrained screams of excitement. On cue, and sticking to tradition, the band leads into their routine acapella-meets-album opener ‘Without You, Without Them’. Boygenius’ set pulls for their chart-topping debut album, The Record, giving air to grungy tracks ‘$20’, ‘Satanist’, and ‘Anti-curse’. But, this isn’t just your ordinary rock show. Yes, underdog tunes ‘True Blue’ and ‘Revolution 0’ are given air time – well, the whole album is rock n rolled out – but there’s a sense of something bigger building. With Soak, Ethel Cain and MUNA previously christening the stage, Boygenius occupying the same platform feels even more intimate. 

The Boygenius set rewards all fans, no matter if you love Dacus, Bridgers or Baker. The elegant ‘Please Stay’ (a Dacus song) is met with silent awe, while Bridgers’ ‘Graceland Too’ brings out one of the most gentle moments of audience participation. Commanding Gunnersbury Park for a lengthy 100 minutes, the final act of the showcase begins to surface. Single ‘Not Strong Enough’ receives an unparalleled reaction as the band power on cramming in time for an encore studded with fireworks. With a dizzying change of pace, the boys start with the delicate ‘Ketchum, ID’ which swells with a crowd chorus contribution. Closing with ‘Salt In The Wound’, the trio tie up the magical show with a monumental climax, with MUNA reappearing onstage, the truly special event ends with a moment many of us won’t forget. 

GAY TIMES rating: ★★★★★