Earlier this year, Virginia-native Lucy Dacus released her third studio album, Home Video. An album about her childhood growing up in the town of Richmond, Home Video explores the concepts many of us have experienced throughout our adolescence: though some moments are very specific to Dacus’ own: including coming to terms with religion, sexuality, and more.
Home Video comes after Dacus’ 2016 debut album, No Burden, and Historian, Dacus’ second album, which was released in 2018. Just recently, Historian was included in Paste Magazine’s list of 100 best albums of the past decade, landing at #20.
Dacus has been touring in support of Home Video since the 10th of September, featuring support from Palehound and Bartees Strange. Her stop at The Theater at Ace Hotel this past Friday was the 11th show of the tour: and it (presumably) was held at the most gorgeous venue Dacus and her band have played during this tour so far. Boasting a capacity of 1,600 and a description of “a movie palace,” The Theatre at Ace Hotel was recently restored after its original build in the 1920s. The venue is similar to ones I frequented in Chicago, like The Vic and The Riviera, though it 1) has seats and 2) seems to be in much better shape than the two iconic Chicago venues.
Lucy’s set began promptly at 9:15pm, this time, opting to open the show with the closing track off Home Video, a slow jam called “Triple Dog Dare.” The majority of the crowd, who welcomed Dacus with quiet, polite cheers as she approached the center of the stage, continued sitting through the first two songs, finally letting loose and standing up as Dacus performed “Addictions,” a track off Historian.
Next up: four tracks off the newest album—”Hot & Heavy,” “Christine,” “VBS,” and “Cartwheel.” Though each performance seemed to be well-received by audience members, (“Christine” being one of my personal favorites off of Home Video), “VBS” takes the cake for the most excitement I saw from the crowd when it came to songs off of HV. Dacus asked the crowd how many of them attended vacation bible school as kids by a show of hands (also met with screams), resulted in the person sit next to me claim that most of them “must be lying,” based on just how many of them claimed to also have attended VBS as children. We definitely weren’t in the south, though LA is certainly home to millions of transplants. Regardless of your conspiracy theory on this moment of the show, the line of the song where “playing Slayer at full volume helps to block it out” garnered the louder singalong moment of the night.
Dacus surprised the crowd with a performance of “Fool’s Gold,” the opening track to her 2019 EP, aptly titled 2019. She said she had decided to play it because someone in attendance had requested it on the internet.
“Partner In Crime” gave Dacus the opportunity to use a voice-altering microphone to mirror the effect her voice has on the recorded version, and “Brando” felt like such wholesome, #relatable content that you couldn’t help but smile when you heard the hook before each verse. This lightheartedness did not last long, however, because it was followed by a hauntingly sad performance of “Thumbs,” a fan favorite song that Dacus has performed for several years but only released it officially when it landed on the tracklist of Home Video.
I’ve been to a lot of shows in my day, and I believe this is quite literally the only time I’ve experienced a crowd being completely silent during the entirety of a single performance: I barely even saw phones up in the air recording it. It goes to show just how powerful this song, and Dacus’ delivery of it, truly are. I’ve written about Dacus’ uncanny storytelling ability is in her songwriting before, and hearing “Thumbs” live brought new meaning to what it means to write a truly impactful song.
It felt like this performance took everyone’s last bit of emotional energy, which was fair, because the rest of the songs played, even “Night Shift” were still met with praise, albeit a bit calmer, more reserved type of praise. In the way that Taylor Swift (yes, I have to relate everything back to Ms. Swift) has stated how fans have changed the meaning of “All Too Well” for her, I believe there is a similar effect on Dacus when she performs “Night Shift,” a song that received the 35th slot on Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Best Songs of the 2010s” (“All Too Well” won the 5th slot).
Dacus ended the show with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in The Dark,” and a performance of “Bus,” a song that is possibly unreleased?
Dacus’ North American tour dates conclude at the end of October, before she heads to Europe in Spring 2022. Chicago fans: Dacus will be performing a free set and Q&A with Sound Opinions the afternoon before her set at Thalia Hall: click here for more info.