If anyone asks me, I don't care for the music of Bishop Briggs. Her alt-rock angsty break-up anthems and soulful melodies with dubstep build-to-the-drop choruses just don't do it for me. But… between you and me, she puts on a heck of a show.
Why the hate? Take her monster hit “River,” an undeniably catchy single that brings to mind Awolnation and the fat, bass-heavy, body-shaking “bowrrrrrrr” sound of the “Inception” score or “Harlem Shake.” Pass. The track could hardly be further from something I'd willfully listen to, and the lyrics, while memorable, make me hard cringe like rereading high school poetry. (“Shut your mouth and run me like a river” is both nonsensical and somehow offensive to these ears.) Or, see exhibit B, “Baby,” Briggs’ first self-proclaimed love song: “Yeah, he's [expletive] crazy, but he's still my baby.” (Woof.)
But, for as much as I can't relate to or revel in the reported catharsis of her music, I couldn't help but smile at the glowing, genuine, toothy grin of a young (and, yes, OK: talented) artist who seemed truly awestruck by the appreciation she was getting from a massive ACL Fest crowd.
Most of Bishop Briggs’ lyrical content seems to be telling off someone or something, if even just the voice of nagging self doubt in her head. But Bishop Briggs is at her best accepting and celebrating what's she done and how far she's come.
“Throughout this set, I'm going to try really hard not to cry, but I can't believe I'm here,” she said. Later, she described her early days, playing to disinterested coffee shop crowds and the momentous significance of today. “I'm opening for Paul McCartney today! Even in my wildest dreams this is more than I could ever imagine,” she said, before finally crying, for just a brief moment, forcing an empathetic lump in my grumpy throat and completely extinguishing any negative things I might possibly feel about her music.
So, since I have to scrap any negative vibes, I'll give credit where credit is due: Bishop Briggs owns a stage. Despite the bad-day diary entry quality that turns me off her lyrics, she had a jubilant presence while performing, grinning and using every inch of the stage--more shadow boxing than dancing and performing as much of a cardiovascular exercise as a cathartic one. With a nose ring, tattoos, black T-shirt and red, white, and black camo pants, Bishop Briggs jogged the the stage, the laps seemingly somehow not affecting her soulful voice and selling what could be a stagnant live experience: a singer and two backup musicians, live guitar and drums paired with synths and drum pads. She also delivers song after song of the same crowd-moving stuff that makes it clear there's truth in advertising when it comes to her best-known productions.
So, yes: Bishop Briggs’ music doesn't do it for me, but Briggs’ spirit of triumph and humility is something even the most jaded of listener can't help but resist in person.