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Basking in Gracie’s Glow: My Travels to See The Good Riddance Tour in Sydney and Melbourne

Writing by Julia Fullard // photographs by Julia Fullard and Kelsey Doyle for Fortitude Music Hall

Photographs from Gracie Abrams Brisbane show
My friend and I were sitting in my car after an afternoon at our local market when I first floated my lofty idea with her: travelling to Sydney to see American singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams on the Australian leg of her Good Riddance tour. This was Abrams’ first time touring in Australia. We had missed out on tickets to her Melbourne shows and I was devastated. I had listened to Abrams for a couple of years, pre her rise in popularity after opening for Taylor Swift at select shows on the US leg of The Eras Tour.

Before I continue, let me be clear: I am no music expert. I am simply a fan. Like most of us, I was introduced to Abrams’ music when I needed it most. I felt seen by her lyrics and music on a level I had rarely experienced before. My connection to her music was only further nurtured by a new group of friends I met at university, all of whom had deep connections to music and fostered the same in me, as we spent dinners listening to records spin on their record players and curated playlists together. From singing Abrams’ music softly in my room to screaming it with my best friends on night drives and everything in between, her music has always offered me solace. Abrams’ profoundly personal lyrics feel like a far more poetic translation of the pages from my notebook and the feelings that never even made it onto paper. Connecting with a musician’s lyrics on such a personal level is rare, a joy that I do not take for granted.

I had been scouring the internet for resale tickets to her Melbourne shows without luck. Every now and then I would peek at the availability for her Sydney shows, where a venue upgrade had meant more tickets were listed for resale. I had considered solo-travelling to Sydney to see Abrams and shared this with my friend (despite not even having a ticket). My friend, who I had perhaps subconsciously picked as she frequently flies interstate for concerts, did not skip a beat: if I got the tickets, she would come with me. This was exactly how we found ourselves on a 7am flight to Sydney the morning of Abrams’ second show there on the 19th of January: me proclaiming that I could not believe we were doing this, my friend replying that she could believe she was doing it, but not that I was. As someone who likes to plan trips well in advance, this last-minute, speedily organised one was a rare occurrence for me.

As soon as we landed and checked into our hotel, I pulled two dollar-store black bows (a staple of Abrams’ aesthetic) from my bag. We quickly clipped them into our hair, before throwing on our outfits and makeup soundtracked to Abrams’ discography. Much to the dismay of my parents (who work in travel), my friend and I then substituted sightseeing for a quick lunch, a supermarket trip to grab queuing supplies (i.e. snacks and umbrellas for the sun) and a 7-hour wait outside the venue. Once we left our Uber, a trail of heads pinned with bows confirmed that we were in the right place. We followed the black-and-white ribbon road directly to the steadily forming queue, where the first place-holders had secured their prime position by sleeping overnight in a tent outside the venue’s gates after attending Abrams’ show the previous night.

Setting up camp under a copse of trees and huddling beneath our umbrellas, my friend handed me an airpod and we began intently reading the books we had crammed into our tiny bags for the wait. Around us, fellow concert-goers well-versed in the Taylor Swift tradition (like us) made Abrams-themed friendship bracelets and wrote ‘21’ on their hands in sharpie – the number that also forms the name of a popular Abrams’ track. Music blared from a nearby speaker – everything from Abrams to Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Sabrina Carpenter – unsurprisingly all of us knew the lyrics by heart. The venue staff walked along the queue with trays of orange slices, garbage bags and sunscreen as the queue grew and our snacks dwindled (or in the case of our chocolate, melted). Every few hours I reapplied my fading red lipstick, questioning why I even put it on this early. My friend laughed, asking why I kept reapplying it just for it to fade again. Behind us, a teenage girl sitting in the queue with her friendly, talkative Dad explained to a woman visiting them that the bows we were all wearing were “a thing”. Another young fan handed out red paper hearts for each of us to hold over our camera light during Abrams’ performance of ‘Amelie’ to cast a red glow across the stadium. Another fan cajoled those waiting in the queue to stand up and sign the Australian flag as a gift to Abrams.

My friend and I could not help but feel a bit old in the teenage crowd (albeit, we were only twenty-one), but regardless, we were far from excluded from the queue’s comradery. In the line for the bathroom, I chatted animatedly with a girl who had complimented my skirt (a maroon mini printed with a gingham ribbon pattern which I had bought second hand for this show). We exchanged stories of our travels to be here (for her, a long drive from Canberra) and time spent in line (her’s a little shorter than ours). Back in line, another girl asked if we had received a red paper heart yet, and when we told her we hadn’t, tore her spare one in two so that my friend and I each had a half. Later, the same girl asked us what song we were most looking forward to. As we moved closer to the gates, another fan lent us her sharpie to write ‘21’ on our hands.

When at last we got through the gates and into the venue, chaos ensued – everyone was running. My friend and I made a mad dash to the empty merchandise stand – a quick decision that cost us a slightly closer position in the crowd, but saved us time at the end as we hurried past the never-ending queue towards an Uber and late-night-early-morning burger order.

We ran onto the floor to stand in the crowd. We were so close to the stage my eyes welled with tears – the wait was worth it. Familiar faces from the queue surrounded us – including the girl with her Dad and, just ahead of us, the girl from Canberra, who spotted me in the crowd and waved excitedly, both of us grinning. Tying my bright red Good Riddance jumper around my hips, my friend and I used my poster to fan ourselves in the heat of the crowd: all that was left to do was wait (a little longer).

Just as the heat began to really press upon us, the opening act, American folk-pop trio Tiny Habits, took to the stage. To compare them to cold things – a breath of fresh air, a cool breeze – would be to do a disservice to the undeniable warmth their music exudes, and yet that very cosiness nevertheless soothed the heat-stricken crowd. While much of the crowd (myself included) may have arrived at the show unaware of Tiny Habits, I think we all left in awe of the trio – whose soft harmonies and gentle lyricism settled upon our ears like sweet nothings. The humble group was dripping in joy for the entirety of their set, beaming as they spoke of their gratitude for the opportunity to tour with Abrams and the presents thrown to them from the crowd (soft toys of Australian animals). Their song tiny things, a poetic meditation on finding beauty in the little things, has already been added to one of my playlists and sent to one of my friends. Tiny Habits also treated us to a cover of Harry Styles’ Matilda (which was of course met with cheers) and a first-listen to an unreleased song.

After the temporary respite of Tiny Habits’ set, we returned briefly to the heat and loudspeaker music. That is, until Swift’s Maroon began to play (one of my all-time favourite Swift songs). Immediately, everyone was on their feet, jumping and singing at the top of our lungs. This was Abrams’ crowd warm-up song and it was more than fit-for-purpose. Directly afterwards, the stage went black, the beat to Where do we go now? began, and Gracie Abrams tore onto the stage to the deafening screams of the crowd, looking ethereal in a white netted top and jeans.

It was not until a few songs in that Abrams first addressed the crowd. With her wide grin, Abrams marvelled over the fact that she was playing her show at a stadium with “bleachers”, which (to the crowd’s shock) she had never done before. Abrams was angelic amid the neon red, blue and purple lights. When she ran over to our side of the stage, we all waved our hands eagerly – hoping for even the slightest interaction – which Abrams enthusiastically gave with a wave back. Abrams’ repentant, apologetic lyrics sung live cut clearly through us all. She closed her eyes, gripped her microphone and gestured pleadingly, her voice earnest and raw and the lyrics equally so. Before singing Mess It Up, Abrams confided that it was her fans that made her come to love the song as much as she does now. Each of Abrams’ cries were reciprocated by the crowd as she turned the microphone to us to hear us scream back ‘sorry’ (during I miss you, I’m sorry) and ‘good riddance'(during Best). There really is a certain magic to hearing songs that have helped you through particular periods of your life in person. For me, listening to Abrams’ biggest hits I miss you, I’m sorry and 21 live, the first songs of hers I heard and felt truly seen by, and singing along, was a dazzlingly full circle moment.

Handling technical issues with her keyboard with grace and good humour, the crowd begged, and were then lucky to hear, Abrams finish the interrupted song, Amelie, acoustically. Abrams laughed as the crowd cheered for her to perform the rest of her set without instruments, assuring us we did not want that (I can assure you, we did). Whether accompanied by acoustic guitar, keyboard or aching electric guitar, it was Abrams’ voice that truly mesmerised us – as hauntingly personal as rainy midnights spent whispering confessions to the moon. If it was not for the heat and bodies pressing against you on all sides, you almost felt that she was just singing to you – confiding her secret regrets, pain and desperate hopes to atone for her wrongdoings in you.

Abrams likes to make each show unique, whether it be changes to the set-list, on-stage food taste tests (including vegemite and milo in her time in Australia) and even covers of other artists’ songs. This show was no different. In fact, the Sydney night two crowd was absolutely spoilt. As a special surprise for a fan whose birthday it was, Abrams took to her keyboard to sing a breathtaking rendition of Long Sleeves framed by a smattering of light bulbs. The crowd collectively held their breath – as if Abrams’ voice, delicate (and just as beautiful) as crystal, could fracture at any second if we spoke.

Abrams also launched into a cover of Ethel Cain’s American Teenager (which she later recorded for Triple J’s Like A Version). I had been introduced to Cain a few years prior by some university friends, and while I did not remember all the lyrics, I recognised the song immediately.  Dancing to the rhythm and singing the words I knew, the girl beside me yelled “this is so niche” to me over the crowd. Later, as we rushed out of the stadium, I sat on the curb to call my friend back home. While the noise of cars, patient parents and tired fans warbled around me, I told her that Abrams had sung an Ethel Cain song, reciting a lyric of it to my friend’s shocked reply, ‘American Teenager???’. Abrams’ raw rendition opened the song up for me. Ever since Cain has been sitting in my top streamed artists on Spotify.

As if this was not enough, as an apology for further issues, we heard both Abrams’ newest song Cedar (released for the The Buccaneers soundtrack) on acoustic guitar as well as her unreleased song In Between (which Abrams explained was written several years ago about her friend, a Swift fan, and her crush – the lyrics featuring subtle references to Swift’s songs to match). Suffice it to say, the crowd was left spellbound.

Before we left for Melbourne the very next day, we ducked into a record store so I could grab a vinyl to commemorate the trip. This Is What It Feels Like was on the shelf and I took it up to the cashier who automatically asked us how the concert was, explaining that he had sold the last copy of Good Riddance that morning. The sun cast its buttery yellow glow on us as we made our way back to the hotel, the record under my arm and new books in our bags. As I managed to fit the record into my case and we made for the airport, I couldn’t help but think that this contented yellow warmth is what it feels like to be connected to friends through music and words.


Once we arrived back in Melbourne the next day, before I had even unpacked my vinyl that had miraculously fit in my 7 kilograms of carry-on, I was hunting for tickets to Abrams’ upcoming Melbourne shows for my friends who had missed out. The ones who were right beside me, singing Abrams to the night through the glare of my windshield. I added my name to the waitlist and by some stroke of luck, came upon one ticket for her second Melbourne show. I offered the ticket to my friends, but no one wanted to go alone – which was how I found myself catching a tram from work to the Forum on the 22nd of January to see Abrams a second time in my home city.

Luckily, I knew a friend who had also scored last minute tickets to see Abrams who was more than happy for me to tag along with her and her friend. In exchange, I went to sit in line once more (although, not for nearly as long as last time). I hopped off at Flinders Street Station and walked towards The Forum (not my first rodeo) – but I may as well have walked directly to the steps of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, for that was where I found myself seated and given a sharpie to write my number in queue (660) after walking around the entire block. I should have known that the queue ended there when I saw the large crowd outside the cathedral, but a naive hopefulness saw me walk around the block and even ask someone in line halfway around if she was at the end (to which I was told it continued even further).

In line, I once again read and chatted with the girl beside me, who held my place in the queue while I ducked across the road to grab dinner. Swathes of passersby – in typical inquisitive Melbournian fashion – asked what we were waiting for as we sat on the curb lining the cathedral’s lawns. When none of them knew who Abrams was after we answered, the girls ahead of me began joking about making up a different answer each time.

Again, the sea of bows welcomed me. As we moved up, a girl behind me asked if I was here alone, to which I explained that my friends would be joining me soon. The girl explained that her friend (who was standing beside her) was going alone, but that she had come to wait in line with her as it was her friend’s first concert and she was feeling nervous. In true (slightly older) concert-girl fashion, I assured her that we would have a brilliant time and that she was welcome to join my friend and I. We talked eagerly about the songs we were looking forward to and my trip to Sydney to see her. The girl was wearing a t-shirt with her name on it as it was a name that featured in Abrams’ lyrics. Later, when the song played, I turned to her and we smiled, screaming the lyrics together. As we inched closer to the door and along the graffitied laneway wall, her friend dropped away and my friends tracked me down in the queue bearing gifts (hot chips).

It is often said that there is no bad view in The Forum and from my experience, I tend to agree (the only caveat being if you are stuck directly behind a super tall person). Tiny Habits’ characteristic warmth was not lost on the Melbourne crowd when they took to the stage for the last show of the Good Riddance tour. Tiny Habits spoke extensively of their love for Abrams and the joy they have had playing at her shows.

After a brief musical interlude, Abrams took to the stage in a sleek black top and pants, in true Melbourne style. She opened once more with the steady beat and breathy vocals of  Where do we go now? (a song that, much like Full machine, hearing live has given me an all new appreciation for). Smiling widely at the crowd waving at her, Abrams waved enthusiastically back amid the flashing lights and mist, trying to read fans’ signs to no avail, as she later explained, due to her eyesight. All of us in the crowd took turns trying to put our hand up and wave when no one else was in an attempt to have a somewhat direct interaction with Abrams. At one stage, in response to my hand in the air, it looked like she pointed directly at me and my friends. I will admit to sending the video to my friendship group and asking them if they thought she pointed at me or if I was being delusional – the results were inconclusive. Regardless, Abrams took every opportunity she could to interact with her fans in both Sydney and Melbourne including: mouthing responses to them in the middle of songs, recording a video of herself and the crowd on a fan’s phone while singing Feels Like, doing a ‘fit check’ at the crowd’s request, graciously accepting presents mid-performance (including a cowboy hat she tried on and a fluffy koala hat she balanced on her piano) and even taking a photo on a fan’s disposable camera.

Abrams made a few changes to her setlist – including substituting out Rockland/Will you cry for Fault line. When it came to surprises, Abrams was more than generous with Melbourne night two. We were treated to her first ever live performance of Everywhere, Everything, fellow American singer-songwriter Noah Kahan’s song that Abrams features on. Then, sitting down at her piano – garlanded by orange light bulbs against a navy curtain, as though at the window of a star-speckled sky – Abrams’ began to play one of her favourite songs. At the first keys, you could hear a penny drop as the crowd’s minds collectively tried to solve the puzzle of what song she was playing. As soon as Abrams’ began to sing, that penny certainly dropped with rapid speed. The crowd roared, nearly drowning out Abrams – she was playing Swift’s Maroon. It seems that, just like her friend Swift, Abrams had been leaving easter eggs of her own. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled. I had been hoping Abrams would cover a Swift song while in Australia as she had been on the US leg of her tour and had said as much to my friends. Abrams’ achingly beautiful voice was perfect for the poetic track, her acoustic rendition brought out the heartache at the core of the song.

Towards the end of the show, Abrams invited Tiny Habits on stage to sing 405 with her (which she later recorded for Triple J’s Like A Version). On stage together, with their faces glowing with delight and voices of liquid gold, the lights became haloes atop their heads. At the end of their performance together, their on-stage hug made their connection irrefutable – with both Abrams and Tiny Habits thanking each other profusely. Abrams also performed her single Stay, her voice stinging with a tender longing. As for her plans post-Good Riddance tour, Abrams shared her excitement at attending the Grammys and announced her upcoming new album – saying that she was due to return to the famed Long Pond Studios to add In Between to the album given its popularity with her fans. Once Abrams disappeared from the stage, we all left the Forum wonderstruck as neon light faded into the night sky. I quickly grabbed the girl I had met in the queue’s Instagram handle before my friends and I walked to the train under the stars.

A week later, on a trip to Collingwood to pick up minor and Good Riddance on vinyl to complete my Abrams’ collection, the cashier looked at my records and smiled. She explained how she had pulled her limited strings in the music industry to get tickets for a family member. I couldn’t help but return her warmth, thinking of the lengths those of us who were able to have gone to see Abrams – an artist whose brutal honesty and raw talent has pierced our hearts and made many of us feel seen. I look forward to seeing her play sold out arenas very, very soon – arenas with far more “bleachers” – and reminiscing on when I was lucky to see her first Australian tour.

Julia Fullard

Julia Fullard (she/her) is a Melbourne based student who has always loved to write. Whether it be in the form of articles, stories or poems, Julia enjoys trying to capture moments big and small. No detail is left out of her work as she chronicles listening in awe to her friend singing at cosy dinner parties, picking up dollar-store bows for a concert interstate and stopping mid-walk to consider buying a bunch of orange marigolds. You can follow her work at @juliawritestoo on Instagram.

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