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Lucy Dacus Leaves No Room for Debate at Mercury Lounge

October 20th, 2016

Lucy Dacus – Mercury Lounge – October 19, 2016

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It was debate night in America on Wednesday, but there was little debate necessary for the late-show crowd at Mercury Lounge because it was quite clear that on at least one stage last night there was a woman—Lucy Dacus—kicking butt. She came out solo to open with “Historians,” a power move, the full room’s chitchat immediately silenced by her voice, a preview of a unique point of view and lyrical prowess. The rest of the band then joined Dacus to get the show going proper with “Troublemaker Doppelganger,” a blast of Richmond, Va., rock and roll, chunky and funky, the singer-songwriter in fine form, rhyming magazines and peonies, in a world where she can leave her “doors wide open.”

Dacus’s voice and demeanor gave the impression of an uneasy balance of vulnerability and strength that carried over into her music. Working mostly from her acclaimed album, No Burden, she began many songs with just her voice before unleashing the band into an agitated state of guitars, bass and drums. With songs like lead-single “I Don’t Want to Be Funny Anymore” and lyrics like “Oh please, don’t make fun of me,” there seemed to be a running theme of the lingering, all-too-real pains of adolescence. Occasionally, Dacus would even pull the guitar close to her chest, almost as if she were tightly holding books in a high school hallway, fighting to be both noticed and not to be noticed.

A couple of newer songs were the most musically interesting, one in which she sang about being “as good as anybody” kicked off as a sultry, jazz lounge–blues thing before Dr. Jekyll-ing into something more fanged and angry. Another began, again, with Dacus solo and exposed, stripped down emotionally but with a hidden compositional complexity, the band finally kicking in for some of the heaviest rocking of the night over several distinct sections. After announcing a next-day departure for their first Europe trip, a step to likely bigger and better things, the quartet finished with “Pillar of Truth,” a build-to-climax closer and a powerful summation. No burden and no debate. —A. Stein | @Neddyo