Lucy Dacus + Quinn Christopherson @ L’Astral – 16th September 2019

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Lucy Dacus

To be honest, I knew nothing about Lucy Dacus or her side project, boygenius, when I agreed to review this show. I also knew nothing about either of the two openers and thus I didn’t know what I’d be missing out on by arriving after Taylor Janzen had left the stage. Listening to her later on, she reminds me of early Taylor Swift, and I’m not sure I’d have had much more than that to say had I shown up on time. Well, there you have it – yet another review that commences with an apology for my tardiness.

Quinn Christopherson though… wow. I was blown away. Unfortunately, you’ll only find two of his songs on Spotify – “Erase Me,” the winner of NPR’s 2019 Tiny Desk Contest, about his experience coming out as a transgender man and managing the privilege that came along with no longer being a woman. That might sound niche, but it’s incredibly relatable – privilege is something this overwhelmingly white crowd lives day to day. The hilarious repartee between Christopherson and Nick Carpenter, who supports him onstage, is also relatable and adds some much-needed levity to the sombre subjects of his music: addiction, mental illness, and other dark, family matters. The sound borders on gothic and experimental, making me think of Marisa Nadler or Richard Reed Parry, and his vocal range evokes Damien Rice or Bright Eyes; it’s contemporary and captivating.

Lucy Dacus comes out at 9:45 to a small but committed crowd and starts with a solo performance of her as-yet-unreleased song, “Fool’s Gold.” Her bandmates join her for the second song, and the drum kit gives off pure country vibes. Dacus holds the vocal aspect alone, backed up by electric guitars instead of backup singers. Sometimes her voice starts to get lost in the loudness of the band, but it just shows what a good collaborator she can be – she doesn’t need to be the star of the show, though she undeniably is; when the drums get loud or the reverb of the bass is particularly strong, her voice pushes through the alternative rock playing simultaneously to her sweet singing. This cooperative spirit is relevant throughout the show – whether she’s singing a glorious half-translated cover of “La Vie en Rose” or extolling the virtues of the opening acts (let it be noted: she’s actually wearing a Quinn Christopherson tee-shirt), it’s clear she’s humble and revelling in the audience’s participation. 

It seems like every American artist to make their way north has a song about Trump’s terribleness and “Yours and Mine” is Dacus’s. Believing that people generally want the world to be better (or wishing it so) inspired this song. It’s folksy, and the show alternates between this vibe and a more rock and roll one. It shows her range, her ability to flow through a variety of styles, and her simple listenability. And Dacus couldn’t have a more sympathetic crowd, as they offer strong support when she explains that singing “My Mother And I” still makes her nervous even though her mother approves. They gaze up at her with adoring eyes, and she maintains their trust with an adorable cover of “Dancing In The Dark” that has a bit of a fifties twang/Zoe Deschanel thing going on. Introducing “Night Shift,” one it seems everyone knows the words to, she thanks those who have been singing along for spending time with her music, saying it’s magical, in her typical forthcoming fashion. These lyrics are for every person who had an ex: “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 the songs feel like covers/Dedicated to new lovers.”

After this song, and just before her solo finale, the crowd goes absolutely wild, and Dacus blushes before she says possibly the nicest thing I’ve ever heard a musician say to their crowd – she says, “I hope each one of you has moments like this in your trade.” I feel this deep in my bones, but before I can get too emotional, she introduces her final song and makes me laugh: “If you’re feeling good, you could leave now.” It’s an unreleased song, and I didn’t get the name, but she warns us that we won’t like it if we don’t like murder and dads. (Does anyone still have to ask if I’m interested in murder?! Yes please!). I am feeling good, but now I’m of course super intrigued. And she doesn’t disappoint, describing how she would kill the man who hurt her friend/lover by abandoning them in fifth grade. The last line is totally great: “You don’t owe him shit even if he said you did.” (I still have so many questions: is this a true story? Is someone’s dad a murderer? When? Where? Why?!)

In an interview with the website Sungenre, Dacus was asked whether it’s easier to write from a place of happiness or sadness. Her answer speaks to writers everywhere (have I used the word relatable enough times today?): “I think I write from a place of confusion. And probably from an effort to find happiness or contentedness.” It’s an interview worth reading – at only twenty-four years old, Dacus is wise beyond her years, but that’s likely the result of being recognized so young as a talent. And those are my final thoughts of this show: that it was full of talent, one you could practically bottle and sell, but no one performing tonight seemed willing to give you anything disingenuous. 

Lucy Dacus Setlist

  • 1. Fool’s Gold (solo)
  • 2. Direct Address
  • 3. Addictions
  • 4. The Shell
  • 5. La Vie En Rose
  • 6.Yours and Mine
  • 7. Time Fighter
  • 8. My Mother And I (solo)
  • 9. Dancing In The Dark
  • 10. I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore
  • 11. Night Shift
  • 12. (Solo)

Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda

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