“Is this for me?” Alix Page knelt on stage, curiously lifting a fan’s tiara to affirming cheers. With the shimmering diadem gracing her chestnut curls, it’s only fitting to say that Page crowned the stage at August Hall.
Radiating regal energy as the opener for Gracie Abrams’ “This Is What It Feels Like” tour, the 20-year-old artist offered San Francisco a polished and coolheaded eight-song set March 7. Although Page is currently taking the spring semester off for tour, she paid homage to university life by donning a modish preppy school outfit, complete with white ankle socks and black loafers.
Page’s elegant, muted outfit foreshadowed her performance’s style, with minimalism defining her set. Yet, the absence of theatrics didn’t restrict her performance from enthralling concertgoers; Page navigated her set list with both delicacy and passion, often beginning songs softly then transitioning into full-blown, hard-hitting production.
Even amidst intense moments, the set ultimately felt serene. It captivated as neither a respite nor a rager, imbued with just enough spirit and color to immerse a mostly unfamiliar crowd.
Fuschia, blue, violet and scarlet lights, though sometimes unintentionally erratic, interlaced in midair like braiding capillaries. Despite the occasional impulsivity of the venue’s lighting, Page effaced such instability with her sweet, airy vocals. Standing tall, composed and majestic behind the mic, she was the epitome of serenity.
Though her calm grace may have been mistaken for passivity on occasion, every so often a delighted smile would slip past Page’s reserved manner, the soft sort that someone wears when they wake up from a pleasant dream — here, it was the smile of a dream manifested into reality.
Page sang pensively as if trying to remember a distant memory, her gaze fixed on something beyond the venue’s back wall. Nostalgia rendered her nearly quiescent and with rigid posture, save for her strumming hand — and joined on stage by bandmates from high school, reminders of the past physically swirled around Page. Bassist Andrew Pham and drummer Caleb Tischbern filled the stage with dynamism, contrasting Page’s statuesque poise.
Unequivocally, the set’s liveliness shone brightest when Page and her bandmates interacted. Page abandoned her mic to play guitar beside Pham during several songs, the pair trading smiles and knowing glances. Page also consistently passed fan gifts to Tischbern — “Caleb, put the boa on!” she requested laughingly at one point — and for a few songs, the drummer donned rosy heart-shaped glasses and a purple boa.
Beyond these fanciful attire additions, Page’s show was more often marked by clarity than over-the-top opulence. Smartly leaving behind the recorded version’s distorted chorus synth, Page opted for a gentler acoustic version of “True and Honest” that better fit the tone of her set. Later, a warm spotlight illuminated Page during her angelic acoustic performance of unreleased “Pulling Teeth.” Balmy pinks and purples engulfed the auditorium, and toward the end of the song, Pham gingerly swept his thumbs over his bass strings for lovely, minimalistic background trills.
The night safeguarded this spacious, stripped atmosphere. Phone lights cast vast overlapping shadows across the stage during “Radiohead” in an almost spectral way, and Page’s utterly seamless transition into her wistful song “Stripes” recalled the likes of Phoebe Bridgers’ “Scott Street.”
After promising there would be “no more sad songs,” Page dove into a convivial cover of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag,” delighting Directioners in the crowd. She briefly pulled back from her mic at the end of the first verse, letting the audience’s voices overtake the venue for a moment.
For the last performance of the opening set, August Hall glistened ruby for “25,” with lights flashing in tune to Tischbern’s especially emphatic drumming toward the song’s conclusion. The venue vibrated crimson, pulsing like a heartbeat as “25” intensified to a purging climax. As Page and her bandmates said their goodbyes, Pham peeled the set list off the floor, folded it into an airplane and sent it into the crowd — a final gift to the crowd, and a bittersweet reminder of how fleeting time together can be.
A little too short but plenty sweet, Page’s splendid opener set ended with a torrent of emotion: Next time she comes to August Hall, bets are that she won’t be an opener.