By Ryan Fine
There may be no major indie rock act today who is quite as well suited to a cozy small venue as Lucy Dacus. At her Indianapolis debut in Fountain Square, the singer-songwriter proved that she is worth every ounce of hype her new record has brought. The two wonderfully fun, high-energy opening sets from Adult Mom and And the Kids would have made for a perfectly good concert on their own, and the crowd seemed to be satisfied even before getting any sight of the headliner. But as it neared 11:00p.m., Lucy Dacus and her band emerged from backstage in a single-file line with uniformly greyscale apparel and were met with warm applause.
Dacus arrived at the Hi-Fi in support of her near-flawless sophomore album Historian: a patient, sugar-sweet record released just over a month before the concert. She opened her set by playing eight songs from the album in a row, beginning with its most upbeat rock single “Addictions” and progressing almost sequentially through its tracklist.
This effectively put several slower tracks together in the setlist, taking the already-intimate barroom venue and making it feel more like a coffee shop. By the time she got to the blues-tinted ballad “Yours & Mine,” each audience member was fully focused on the performance as if she were singing directly to them. She introduced the song as being about things in the world that suck, and thanked the crowd for singing along and creating a “healing moment” for her.
The energy picked up a little bit after that with a transition to the quicker guitars of “Body to Flame,” a beautiful track about the ongoing mystery of getting to know other peoples’ internal struggles. “Timefighter,” which filled the next slot, was one of the clear highlights of the night. One of the show’s loudest and most intense moments, the song brought a boomy, disgusting bass tone to a night that risked sounding a bit too uniformly pretty.
Once Dacus finished her Historian run with the tragic and stunning “Pillar of Truth,” she announced that she would shift to play some older songs from her first album No Burden. Tuning her guitar by playing a chord that could have pointed to any number of songs from that album, she eventually began playing “Map on a Wall.” This song, along with the companion songs “Dream State…” and “…Familiar Place,” led to a segment that leaned heavily on the quieter moments of No Burden. Though it was nice to hear those songs, it would have also been nice to hear some of the more upbeat songs as well.
But even with the absence of “Troublemaker Doppelganger” and “Strange Torpedo,” she did have time to include her first mini-hit “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore.” Unsurprisingly, this was one of the best singalong moments of the show, only topped by the next song on the list. After the song’s final trailing moments, Dacus said that her next song would be the last one (but acknowledged with air quotes that she likely had an encore planned).
Every good musical artist needs a song that can turn their live shows into a warm community experience, and for Lucy Dacus, that song is “Night Shift.” Sprawling and emotional, “Night Shift” is the first and best song from Historian, and in the context of the album it pulls the listener in right from the beginning and guarantees a gorgeous album to come. At her Indianapolis show, she closed her main set with this song, and by the time the climactic chorus came around there was hardly a mouth in the room that was not full of its words. When it was over, Lucy Dacus and her band thanked the crowd and walked offstage to an applause thunderous enough to carry through to the encore set.
The song she chose to bring the show to its genuine conclusion was “Historians,” the final track from the album of a similar name. This is maybe the mellowest song in her catalogue, and for the first time that night, hardly anyone in the audience even attempted to sing along. Instead, Dacus was greeted with a deserved wide-eyed reverence as the audience absorbed the reserved atmosphere for the last time. Though in many ways it was different from the rest of her set, it made for the perfect epilogue to an impeccably crafted, well-told story.
Featured image from The 405
Ryan is a Music Media Production major who wrote the first ever Byte music review and has been involved with nearly every other section at some point. He is also an event planner at Village Green Records and the primary booking coordinator for the store’s outdoor concerts.
Lucy Dacus @ The Hi-Fi, Indianapolis (4/7/18)
Unlike many rock artists of her time, Lucy Dacus does not raise the roof or inspire any dance parties. However, her live show is anything but timid. At her first-ever Indianapolis concert, she supported the aptly named album ‘Historian’ with songs that told well-documented stories in creative new ways. The subtly epic qualities of her music were perfectly suited to the homely atmosphere of the Hi-Fi and the eager attentiveness of the crowd.