Lucy Dacus brings Richmond rock to The Southern

The up-and-coming indie rocker boasted a sold-out show, didn’t disappoint

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Lucy Dacus performed at The Southern Cafe and Music Hall on March 7. 

Xiaoqi Li | Cavalier Daily

Lucy Dacus is an artist who takes her time. After her 2016 debut “No Burden,” an indie rock album which enjoyed enormous acclaim, fans of the new artist wouldn’t hear from her again for a while. Her next effort, “Historian,” was only released March 2, having been teased by excellent singles such as “Night Shift” and “Next of Kin.”

Similarly, the many fans packed into the cramped space of The Southern Cafe and Music Hall to see Dacus March 7 had a long night ahead of them. It was one of the first shows of the artist’s tour in support of “Historian,” and expectations were understandably high — as evidenced by both the size and energy of the crowd.

The show was opened by Adult Mom and And the Kids, two bands whose performances, if nothing else, amped up the audience’s excitement for the main act. Adult Mom played shorter, lyrics-driven tracks, while And the Kids displayed an angrier, more complex energy. Both acts took over the stage for about half an hour’s worth of content with plenty of time between each. On the back wall of the stage, an unlit neon sign depicting “Historian’s” cover art — a white stick figure blowing what appears to be a red bubble — hinted at the music to come.

It was well after 10 p.m. when the sign finally flickered to life, signaling the start of the main show, and Dacus and her band took the stage to riotous cheers. Dacus was dressed in a simple white shirt and black dress pants, a subtly stylish outfit in accordance with her unassuming way of creating and performing music.

Also in accordance with this theme was the first thing she said to the eagerly-waiting crowd.

“I think we might just get on into this if you don’t mind,” Dacus said.

The audience made it very clear that they didn’t mind, and so the band dove into a spirited performance of “Addictions,” one of the peppier singles from “Historian.” This started a string of tracks from the new album, notably “Timefighter” and “Yours & Mine.” 

The latter track is one of the highlights of the new album, just as it was a highlight of the show. A testament to what Dacus described as “being discontent with how things are,” “Yours & Mine” tackles the idea of protest and how the history of a place can affect one’s love of it. “We've got a long way to go / Before we get home / 'Cause this ain't my home anymore,” Dacus sang — strong words for a musician who famously loves her hometown of Richmond.

Dacus’s songs tend to take a long time as well, slowly building lyrics and layers of sound to a peak of emotional power. Dacus’s best example of this is perhaps “Night Shift,” a slow-cooker of a breakup track with a truly explosive finale. Dacus chose this song as the closing performance of her set, a perfect capper to the night’s collection of songs. The audience’s response was equally explosive — they rocked and swayed to the powerful music, seeming to know all the words to a song still relatively new to the public. 

They sang along with Dacus, who at this point was nearly screaming into the mic: “You got a nine-to-five so I’ll take the night shift / And I’ll never see you again if I can help it / In five years I hope these songs feel like covers / Dedicated to new lovers.”

It wasn’t technically the finale — Dacus’s encore was an emotional, stripped-down version of new track “Historians” — but “Night Shift” was undoubtedly the peak of the night. It contained everything that has contributed to Dacus’s rise to fame so far — thoughtful, powerful lyrics combined with a sheerly enjoyable indie rock sound. It’s been her formula so far, and it’s yet to lead her astray. Dacus has already experienced a meteoric rise to fame — maybe the speediest thing about her. If her performance at The Southern is any indication, the rise has only begun.

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