This account is based on two sources: Alex’s memory of a mysteriously retracted story from a major music news outlet (help me find it, Reddit!), and a 2-minute video clip from the Sun Kil Moon website. This story is reconstructed to the best of one man’s ability.
Please note: Mark Kozelek, a key character in this story, was credibly accused of sexual misconduct by three different women in 2020.
On the night of Jan. 14, 2016, Mark Kozelek and his band Sun Kil Moon played the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Standing near the front of the audience was a fan named Phoebe Bridgers.
As the band neared the end of their encore, Kozelek heard a request from the crowd: “You Missed My Heart,” a solo song he’d released a few years earlier. Sorry, he told the fan, I don’t remember all the words to that one.
No problem, the fan said. I can sing it.
Absolutely no one in the building knew who Phoebe Bridgers was. As she climbed onto the stage and took the microphone, the crowd held its breath the way a crowd does when someone is about to embarrass themselves.
Bridgers, then a local 21-year-old singer-songwriter with a Ryan Adams-backed EP under her belt, had generated a little bit of industry buzz. She’d been on plenty of stages by that point. But she was still nearly two years away from releasing her critically acclaimed debut album, Stranger in the Alps, and becoming PhoEBe BrIDgeRs. That night at the Regent, she was anonymous.
As the band began to play Kozelek’s 6-minute, 480-word epic, all eyes were on the surprise guest. And she delivered. She sang every word, and earned an extra-dramatic outro during which she got to harmonize with Kozelek as they repeated the final lyric, “downriver from the Moundsville Prison graveyard.”
When the song ended, the crowd roared. Kozelek gave Bridgers a hug and asked her name. As Bridgers sheepishly grinned and wandered off the stage, Kozelek gestured toward her and shouted, “Phoebe!” and the audience cheered again.
There’s a certain destiny to those who find the spotlight and stay there. Who in their right mind would call out the name of a song at the end of a packed show, get rebuffed, and then insist that they could step onstage and do a better job? And then—key step here—actually pull it off? It’s a moment that said: somehow, someway, this person is going to connect with millions of people.
Bridgers doubled down by recording her own version of “You Missed My Heart” for Stranger in the Alps. It’s one of the best moments on the album, and has earned her praise from critics around the world. Due to Kozelek’s misconduct, the tune will likely stay mothballed for the foreseeable future (forever?), but the recording is nonetheless a document of Bridgers’ fearlessness and vision.
She believed in herself enough to climb onto the stage and take the microphone in front of one of her heroes and 1,000 other strangers, purse still slung around her shoulder. I think we should all be lucky to find that sort of courage and confidence within ourselves.
(Below: Bridgers' signature version of "You Missed My Heart" at a St. Louis show in 2018.)
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