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By photojournalist Georgia Lingerfelt

Faye Webster is an Atlanta-born singer-songwriter who opened her nationwide tour in St Petersburg on March 26th. Her music career began when she was just 16 years old, self-releasing her debut record Run and Tell. Her 2019 record Atlanta’s Millionaires Club gained critical acclaim and set the stage for a fast track to stardom. Webster’s music is entirely its own. A unique blend of genres and eclectic influence. Beyond her own music, Webster’s success brings up an interesting conversation pertaining to the evolution of the music industry.

The way that the masses have consumed recorded music over the years has changed a number of times. Vinyl records ruled, in slightly different variations, from the 1920s through the 50s. Then 8-tracks and cassette tapes had their moment in the spotlight, CDs in the 90s, which saw a rapid fall due to the prevalence of piracy. The early 2000s brought the digital era that we are still living in. Much of today’s youth’s transformative years were spent using on-demand streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Users can listen to as much music, and whatever music, they please, all for the same monthly flat rate. As a result, the term genre has nearly become obsolete to the 18-34 age group.

Young fans at Faye Webster’s St Pete show struggled to answer the question “What genres do you typically listen to?” They rambled an array of genres, counting on the fingers of their x-marked hands. Indie was muddled out by a few of Webster’s fans. Indie originally meant independent from the major labels that have historically run the music industry, is now a category that many of the world’s most successful artists under the largest labels are granted the title of. Boygenius, and one of the trio’s solo components, Phoebe Bridgers; Clairo; and Tame Impala are all major label artists that are commonly associated with the genre.
Colloquially, indie is now used to mean boundary-pushing, experimental music that gives the essence of independence. Alternative is another genre that once referenced a particular sound that now serves as a catch-all bucket. As consumers are listening to all new types of music, musicians are also being inspired by cultures they previously did not have had access to. Thus resurrecting old genres in new ways.

Faye Webster’s music is commonly labeled as indie or alternative. Distinct from many of her peers who have achieved success in the genre, Webster remains truly independent. Perhaps this adds a layer of authenticity that her fans resonate with.

Webster’s name is not only known by a small niche of die-hard music fans. Her talent has earned her a couple of Rolling Stone features, half a million followers on Instagram, seven million monthly listeners on Spotify, and dedicated fans who drive from Tallahassee to St Pete before camping outside the venue for another four hours just to see her up close on a Tuesday night. It’s hard to imagine when the last time, what is at its core, a jazz show brought thousands of 20-somethings together. But this is what Webster has accomplished.

Faye Webster played her first-ever headline show in Florida for a sold-out Jannus Live crowd this past Tuesday. Openers, Upchuck, a five-piece punk band from Atlanta, brought an infectiously rowdy energy to kick off the night. The crowd embraced the stark contrast of their uptempo grunge sound to Webster’s sultry R&B vocals and mellow lap steel guitar.

Faye Webster graced the stage in all-blue light, a signature color of her newest album. Fans eagerly awaited to hear new material from her album that dropped mere weeks ago. Further speaking to her multi-dimensionality, the stage was rugged. Artificial rock outcroppings concealed wiring from instruments. The backdrop was an illustration of a woman on fire. The figure had an omnipresent feeling and a sense of calm in a tortuous environment. Perhaps a reference to Webster’s tendency to make art from the painful moments of her life. Webster has said this album is not an attempt to heal, but rather to live and document her own human experience.

Webster is sure to bring her hometown along for the ride. Her openers hail from Atlanta, as well as rapper Lil Yachty who is featured on Underdressed at the Symphony. Lil Yachty, also known as Miles Parks McCollum, and Webster may feel like they are on polar opposite sides of a musical spectrum, and while there is truth in this statement, their audiences have significant overlap. The pair collaborated on the song “Lego Ring.” For much of the song McCollum’s vocal is a ghastly hum in the background, but his presence is undeniable. This type of collaboration is a result of a long-held connection that started between the artists in middle school. The marring of these two sounds underscores the richness and diversity of today’s music scene, where artists draw inspiration from assorted sources to create something truly unique. And Webster did get her lego ring after all, she proudly sports it on her right-hand ring finger while on stage.

Faye Webster closed the night with a fan favorite, “Kingston.” Fans’ applause could be heard down the block as the band took their final bow. From her unexpected collaborations to her unwavering commitment to authenticity, Faye Webster’s journey is a reflection of the massive shifts in the music industry and cultural landscape over the past decade.