Lucy Dacus Translates Home Video Memories At Forest Hills Stadium
“… Oberst’s origin story is rooted in the Midwest—as New York Magazine observed in 2005, the Omaha, Nebraska native’s “lyrics [are] tied to a certain bleak emotional landscape—which often mirrored the physical one outside his parents’ window.” For Lucy Dacus, it is the complexities of the South that loom large. The indie-rock darling (she’s part of a supergroup trio, boygenius, with Julien Baker and the aforementioned Phoebe Bridgers) referred to this as the dream bill she would have created as a fledgling artist. It was certainly a dream bill for us to experience.
Songs like “Triple Dog Dare” and “VBS” from 2021’s Home Video situate us in the grainy details of someone “interrogat[ing] her coming-of-age years in Richmond, Virginia.” To be young and queer and caught up in conservative Christian mores is no easy thing to navigate, especially when your folks send you off to bible study (“VBS means vacation Bible school, and I went to tons of them,” she says). There’s a dusky intimacy to the lower-register melodies in these songs, and it’s easy to picture a kid in a bunk bed after lights-out, listening to forbidden music through headphones. We go from the nearly whispered lines: “There’s nothing you can do but the only thing you found / Playing Slayer at full volume helps to block it out,” to a cacophony of drums and synths. The abruptness with which the other instruments join in is a perfect metaphor for the way in which music can be freeing.
Dacus’s writing is so good, her verses so economical and graceful, that I’m absorbed simply reading them on a page. To hear the songs live, in her voice both sonorous and steadying—that was beyond. The thirty-minute set was far too short, and I’m envious of concertgoers who snagged tickets to her headlining set at Music Hall of Williamsburg the following night, announced at the last minute after Bright Eyes postponed the Terminal 5 show.
Home Video is an apt title for a collection of songs that draws our focus to the way everyday acts and omissions, conversations, and silences, all accrete. But Dacus treats solemn subjects in a way that’s not self-serious—these songs are well suited for both quiet reflection at home and energetic singalongs at concerts. A few minutes into her set at Forest Hills Stadium, she donned a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses against the glare of the late afternoon sun, and one word popped into my head: Marvelous. She’s simply marvelous.
Five of the six songs Dacus and her band performed were off her new album, and they wrapped up the set with “Night Shift” from 2018’s Historian. The song about a relationship gone sour unfolds unhurriedly, transitioning from introspection over a single guitar (the first part feels tranquil even while the lines are unapologetically biting) into a brilliantly fierce kiss-off, complete with drums and distorted guitars. The gloves are off, the crescendo builds, fueled by the precision strike of the incisive lines: “In five years I hope the songs feel like covers / Dedicated to new lovers.”
That song wrecks me. From her adolescent diaries to the dreamed-of bill shared with Bright Eyes and Waxahatchee, Dacus continues to translate memories—that shifting landscape of disappointment and confusion and hope—into something we can hold onto…”