By Carter Glace, Staff Writer
In a year marked by releases from some of the biggest names in music, Lucy Dacus’ album “No Burden” has proven itself to be the supreme underdog. It’s the album you can’t wait to tell your friend about; the one where your favorite song changes with every listen.
Dacus’ voice gives off the comforting warmth of your favorite sweater or a day spent by the fireplace watching snow fall past your window, but each song contains an intensity simmering just beneath the surface. As she worked her way through a captivating late night set at Mercury Lounge last Wednesday, Oct. 26, that intensity was palpable.
The audience was already completely on-board before Lucy and her band set foot on the stage. They opened the show with a beautiful solo performance of the non-album cut “Historians,” spoke volumes. The crowd didn’t stay quiet long, though. They immediately erupted after the song’s conclusion with ecstatic applause and cries of “We love you!” as a fervent drumbeat announced the standout pair of “Troublemaker Doppelgänger” and “Strange Torpedo.”
In the singing along and the smiles stretching across the faces of the crowd, it was clear that these people weren’t there to see what the buzz was about — they already understood it. This wasn’t a show for a rising artist to prove herself; it was a celebration, a culmination.
Introducing “Timefighter,” another song that didn’t appear on “No Burden,” Dacus joked that given the amount of times she’s been through New York City recently, half the crowd probably knew the tune already. She wasn’t wrong. It’s rare to see the kind of passion and devotion that this crowd displayed directed at a relatively small artist so new to the scene, and the power of that certainly wasn’t lost on Dacus.
Towards the end of the show, she realized that she had time to squeeze in one more song than she’d planned for and immediately the room was filled with shouted requests. After she put it to a vote — won by “Green Eyes, Red Face” — any disappointment was quelled by the charm in her genuine surprise at the mere fact that a vote was necessary.
More important than all of her fans’ support and excitement, though, is the fact that Lucy Dacus has no problem backing up every last bit of hype (including a shout-out from fellow Virginian, Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine) with performances that, with their electricity and their intimacy, have a habit of taking your breath away. From heartbreaking songs like “Map on a Wall” and “…Familiar Place” to the tongue-in-cheek sing-along “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” she inhabits every note, knowing when to keep the mood subdued and when to join her band in uninhibited, raucous fun.
The undoubted highlight of the show was “Night Shift,” a third new song that Dacus and her band were performing for the second time ever. Starting quiet with just Dacus’ voice and guitar, the tune burst open when the rest of the band kicked in and took the audience on an emotional climb that ended with a spine-tingling, voice-cracking shout from Dacus and a heavy rock and roll assault of drums, bass and guitar.
After watching that crowd watch her own the Mercury Lounge stage for every second of her set, it’s hard to imagine that, as she makes her way across the Atlantic for her first European tour, this isn’t the end of an era for Lucy Dacus. She’s one of those artists just on the cusp of breaking through, and she has the tools she needs to make it happen, hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to see it happen.