Lucy Dacus is a masterful songwriter, and her recent show at One Eyed Jacks showed how quickly she's developing.
It’s difficult to stop an audience in its tracks with an unrecorded song, but Lucy Dacus has done it both times I’ve seen her. Months ago in Chicago while on tour with boygenius--Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker--she opened with a brand new, unrecorded song called “Fool’s Gold.” She performed it solo, alone with her guitar, and I was crying before the end of the first song of the first set of a stacked, emotionally gutting bill.
At her show in New Orleans at One Eyed Jacks, she took a different, but similarly emotional approach by ending her set with a new song that left the audience fraught and teary-eyed. She began the song by announcing that there wouldn’t be an encore because she feels like they’re corny, then clarified that she would never actually kill anybody. The song was about meeting someone you love’s absent, shitty dad, and wanting nothing more than to destroy him. She didn’t announce the song title, but the chorus went,==o “I would kill him, if you let me / I would kill him, quick and easy.” She performed this song solo as well, just her and her guitar so the focus was just on her lyrics and her voice.
These soft, lyrically devastating songs punctuate her more instrument-heavy songs like “Timefighter” and “Body to Flame.” “Timefighter” is built differently than the rest of her songs, starting slowly and dark with a bassline and bass drum and builds into an intense, screaming mess of vocals and instruments over the course of nearly six minutes.
Her song construction brought the listener through entire stories last Thursday night. Her lyrics have a specificity that place the listener in concrete, difficult to swallow scenes. Her songs range a wide spectrum of subject matter, from familial issues, relationship issues, protest songs, and songs about self-reflection and her place in those situations. Her lyrics reflect the world astutely, and her voice cuts straight into your chest as she sings them.
“Night Shift” is Lucy Dacus at her most impressive and heartbreaking. It was the second-to-last song that she played, and it shows how skilled she is as a songwriter. The song made it to many year-end lists and was second of NPR’s top songs of 2018, with many claiming it’s an instant classic breakup song. The opening lines, “The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit / I had a coughing fit,” are devastating, and the song only builds from there. The song is six and a half minutes long, and by the five-and-a-half minute mark, Dacus was screaming the lyrics and the audience was screaming along with her in an outpouring of frustrated catharsis for everyone’s most recent or most traumatizing breakup.
Part of what made the show so exciting is that Dacus is just getting started. Historians got her a lot of critical acclaim, and being a part of the boygenius trio has brought her to the attention of the appropriate crowd. She was technically the smallest act on the boygenius bill, but I don’t know how long that will be the case. Her first record had 20 record labels fighting to sign her, and her voice is piercing and hauntingly delicate, unlike any voice making music right now. Her stage presence and online presence seems unconcerned with becoming a star or a public figure, and she seems more in love with writing and performing music. That music, once it reaches listeners, does its own work.