MUNA Prove Life Really Is So Fun on Their Summer Headlining Tour
We stopped by the Salt Shed in Chicago to catch the trio's catalog-spanning, headlining performancePhotos by Sam Muller and Anna Govert Music Features Muna
The first thing audiences heard when MUNA took the stage for their headlining show at the new Salt Shed in Chicago was: “Wait, hold on, wait.” Katie Gavin, the band’s lead singer, stopped the show and brought the lights up after seeing that someone was signaling for help in the middle of the large crowd. The band waited until security descended into the pit to help a passed out audience member before deciding to go back and just start over, rewinding their dramatic entrances and restarting their perfect opener, “What I Want.”
Back on track, the first to re-enter the stage were the band’s tour drummer Sarab Singh and bassist Geo Botelho, who each took their positions on two raised platforms at the back of the stage. Next out were lead guitarist Josette Maskin and multi-instrumentalist Naomi McPherson, to rapturous applause. And finally Gavin, reentering the stage just before the beat hit on the second track from their self-titled third album—which is clearly a crowd-pleaser, this Life’s So Fun Tour audience knew every single word.
That was just the first of many songs that this crowd knew by heart and sang at a fevered pitch. Potentially bolstering this audience’s enthusiasm was the fact that this Chicago show was a hometown performance for Gavin, who mentioned how much they love Chicago shows during a break between songs. The crowd was in peak performance, singing loudly to even deep-cut album tracks like “Loose Garment,” but reaching their highest crescendo when shouting a lyric from “I Know a Place:” “I think you should hop on the purple line,” which is a reference to Gavin’s Chicagoland roots.
I saw MUNA for the first time when they opened for Harry Styles at the Chicago Theater back in 2017. They were much smaller then (their debut album About U having just dropped only a few months prior), a significant difference from the band that headlined The Salt Shed, and filled the 3,600 capacity venue on Tuesday. That Harry Styles show was the loudest concert I have ever been to, and while MUNA’s headlining crowd didn’t quite reach that level of Styles-mania, it was pretty damn close. It’s clear that the band have found their people, and built a fervent fanbase that vibrates with the same fever whenever they take the stage.
While waiting in line at the merch table, I had someone ask me what it was about MUNA that brought me to that concert, what was it about their music that drew me to them. I imagine my answer was similar to how everyone in that audience would answer: They make incredible music, and they are probably the gayest band ever. MUNA’s first encore number “I Know a Place,” which the band jokingly refers to as one of their two “gay songs,” is emblematic of the atmosphere created within their shows. In that song, Gavin, Maskin and McPherson establish that they do know a safe, welcoming place, and it’s right there in that room with them. Beyond being living proof of queer joy and prosperity on stage, the band also dedicated their song “Kind of Girl” to the transgender community, calling out how that community in particular has faced harsh political targeting as of late. Being apolitical was never an option for a band like MUNA, and they refuse to allow their audience to carry that sort of attitude, while also not overwhelming their mostly queer crowd with the burden of the current political climate. It was a gentle reminder to remember the current state of the world, before allowing everyone in that audience to let go and enjoy the show, surrounded by peers and friends.
And when I say that MUNA was the embodiment of joy on that stage, I mean it. Maskin spent a majority of the concert running back and forth across the stage, with a huge smile almost always breaking through. During “Home By Now” from MUNA, Maskin chased Gavin around the stage practically the whole song, showcasing the effortless comfortability the band clearly have with one another. Their on-stage rapport together is just so fun to watch, having been built over the near-decade they have been a band. They all also have a great sense of humor, especially McPherson, who introduced their song “Around U” by saying that the song was, in fact, about them, but they couldn’t even be mad about it because it’s such a great song. And though Gavin and McPherson are exes, as they have discussed over the course of their career, there is no discomfort between them on stage. The ease with which all three of them revolve around each other on stage is emblematic of the strength of their bond and unshakable dynamic as a band. And to top it all off, Maskin and McPherson sealed it all with a kiss in the middle of the show to, again, rapturous applause.
Besides the infectious amount of fun radiating from the band throughout the set, MUNA are also just incredible performers. They are electric on stage, and did not miss a single note or beat throughout the night. The setlist, which blends recent songs and older tracks with their biggest hits, is over an hour long, and the band was still in top form when it came to a close with “Silk Chiffon.” MUNA brought out their openers the Nova Twins to sing Phoebe Bridgers’ verse on the track, calling back to the stage a duo that brought the house down with their grimy punk rock ahead of MUNA’s set. (To say that the Nova Twins were also a joy to watch would be an understatement; they brought an incredible energy, and it was a delight to watch them win over the crowd almost as soon as they stepped on stage with their glittery guitars and punk-rock outfits.)
After “Home By Now,” Gavin made a joke about being out of breath from all the running and the amount of words in the song, but her vocal performance did not falter even a little from the extended chase with Maskin. Every song they performed was done to perfection, but none more so than my own favorite tracks “Stayaway” and “Anything But Me,” which were each so much fun to experience live. Even their new single “One That Got Away” was met with a loud chorus of people singing along, and was another great song to experience in the best way possible: live, surrounded by thousands of others who also know every single word.
From their music alone, it’s easy to see that MUNA is an undeniably special band, and it’s been incredible to watch their meteoric rise from being a niche queer staple to the sensation they are still becoming. It’s clear that Taylor Swift sees that same potential in them, as they are the opener for her record-breaking Eras Tour on select stops, including some dates in Chicago at Soldier Field. During a break between songs, Gavin thanked the crowd for supporting them, lamenting on how success like they have seen especially in recent years is a rarity, and that they’re grateful for every minute of it. In truth, there is no band more deserving of this success, and I am so glad that “Silk Chiffon” caught on like it did, introducing this band to the people that need them most, and even those that don’t.
If you have the chance to see MUNA, I could not recommend them enough. Whether you catch one of their upcoming headlining shows or with Swift at the Eras Tour, you are guaranteed an incredible performance filled with addictive songs, electric energy and undeniable talent.
Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert.