Indie rock and folk singer-songwriter and producer Lucy Dacus played The Jefferson Theater on Friday. The sold out show attracted individuals from all over the state to the 13th show of her 2022 winter tour. Dacus herself is from Richmond, and was very familiar with the Jefferson as a performance venue.
The concert opened with alternative artist Indigo De Souza firing up the crowd with her rock ballads, combined with smoky lighting and angsty vocals. Dacus then took the stage and brought the house down with her emotional delivery and lyrics which are more than fitting for the demographic of a college town as many of them deal with the hardships of moving from adolescence to adulthood. The stage played on the visuals and colors used in promotion of her latest album, sketch-like projections of drawings relating to the songs, and even authentic home videos from Dacus’ childhood.
Dacus reminded the audience it was her fourth time performing at the venue, and her parents, grandmother and elementary school art teacher were in the audience.
“It’s always a pleasure to be back in Charlottesville,” Dacus said. “It’s almost like a home show.”
Dacus is the most well-known among alternative music fans, and is recognized for her collaboration with fellow indie folk singer-songwriters Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers in their 2018 EP “boygenius.” Dacus finds solidarity with her listeners with her lyrical takes on religious trauma, finding balance between romantic and platonic relationships and her poetic musings on growing up. Her breakout hits include “Night Shift,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” and “Hot & Heavy.”
The setlist Dacus played came mainly from her third and most recent studio album “Home Video,” which was released in the summer of 2021. However, she included a few stand out songs from her first two albums “No Burden” and “Historian.”
Dacus’ shows typically have a laid back and relaxed vibe as most of her songs fall under the folk genre, though she always sprinkles some of her more rock-focused songs throughout the setlist. Dacus also delighted the audience by playing two covers — “Home Again” by Carole King and “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen.
“We have to play this if my dad is in the crowd,” Dacus said about the Springsteen song. “This is for you, Dad.”
Dacus also surprised the audience with her heartbreaking ballad “Please Stay,” in which she described begging a close friend not to commit suicide. Dacus typically omits this song from her live setlists as it is difficult for herself to sing, and difficult for the audience to digest in a performance setting. The song is a battle cry to protect a loved one as she sings, “I think you mean what you say / when you say you want to die / I think you mean what you say / when you say you want to stay alive.”
Dacus cries a final plea and finds herself surrounded by fans that relate to the heartbreaking experience of watching a loved one lose themselves in poor mental health. Though the song is difficult to hear, the message is powerful and reminds audience members to check on their loved ones and themselves.
Another interesting aspect of the show was Dacus performing the entirety of her set from a couch. She currently has two herniated discs in her back, making performing standing up very painful. In the wake of all the cancellations of shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic protocol, Dacus decided to carry on with touring despite her injuries, just with slight altercations. A microphone stand was propped up and angled so Dacus could sing into it laying down, while also playing the guitar.
Unlike many artists, Dacus was able to keep the crowd engaged throughout the entirety of her soft set and while laying down. Her voice treads a fine line between deep and jazzy while also being smooth and soft, creating a very unique listening experience. Though there was a projected visual element behind the stage showing expressiveness which correlated with the setlist, the real show stopper was easily Dacus’ astonishing musical abilities.
Dacus herself has reported she lacks formal musical training and only finds sounds organically through trial and error when writing songs rather than using ritualistic music strategy. Her uncanny connection with her guitar, voice and band is enough to captivate the crowd, but it becomes even more astonishing after understanding it is truly derived in her pure gift and love for music. Dacus will continue performing on her winter 2022 tour through the beginning of March 2022 for audiences to enjoy.