A rising star on the indie rock scene, Lucy Dacus is a master storyteller. At age 20 she made Rolling Stone’s list of “10 New Artists You Need to Know,” closely followed by performances on CBS This Morning, NPR’S Tiny Desk, and Lollapalooza. Her debut album No Burden was produced by Berklee alum Collin Pastore and met with widespread critical acclaim, as was her sophomore effort Historian with Matador Records. Throughout the year she released a stream of holiday-inspired singles that culminated in the EP 2019. Dacus is also one-third of the group boygenius, whose EP released in October 2018.
The Royale, a nightclub in the heart of Boston’s theatre district, is intimate and sprawling at the same time. Several grand flights of stairs lead up to a large room adorned with string lights and velvety red curtains. Ornate details were embossed into the walls; on the second level, people sat on benches and chairs or leaned over the intricately carved balcony.
On December 4th, the open floor area was jam-packed. Around me, concertgoers discussed everything from My Chemical Romance’s reunion to avoiding their 4am work shifts. I saw people with colorful hair, eclectic jackets with pins and handwritten song lyrics, and trendy eco-friendly canvas bags. The night exuded an “island of misfit toys” sort of vibe - people from all different backgrounds and lives coming together for a night of honest, passionate music.
The evening’s first act was Haley Heynderickx, an indie-folk songwriter. Armed only with an acoustic guitar & pedals, her striking lyrics and breathy-but-warm voice permeated the venue.
Heynderickx established a great rapport with the audience, joking about the double entendre in a cover she performed and apologizing to the Berklee students in attendance for her purposely de-tuned guitar. Her music is brutally honest - one of her new songs was about struggling to survive the winter living in a trailer. The first line of said song was “I f*cked up,” met with a chorus of laughter, cheers, and affirmations from understanding twenty-somethings. Between her authenticity, demeanor, and an epic guitar solo in “Untitled God Song” Heynderickx expertly set the tone for the rest of the night.
Lucy Dacus and her band walked onstage to resounding applause from the fans. She exudes kindness and warmth, and her voice wraps around you like a hug. As the set went on, she drew me in over and over with her genre-melding, lyrically-genuine music. It was strange yet familiar - comforting, like a hazy memory coming back to light. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of instrumentations in her music: “Fool’s Gold” was simple, with simple acoustic guitar strumming and bass hits; “Forever Half Mast” was country-inspired yet groovy; “Timefighter” was rock-influenced, with an intense guitar solo and heavily-contrasting dynamic action. She also performed a neat arrangement of “La Vie En Rose,” with a pulsing quarter note base, snare hits & rolls, and lyrics in both French and English - after which she playfully called out the audience members attempting to sing along to the former.
If she wasn’t singing, there was a smile on her face - it’s clear that Dacus absolutely loves what she does. She encouraged us to sing along, telling us, “My greatest joy in life is for the crowd to sing a whole show with me.” She’s in touch with her emotions & speaks to the ones we can’t describe, and she drifts effortlessly between intensity and gentleness, holding her audience in the palm of her hand. During one of her softer numbers (“Yours & Mine”), tipsy couples leaned against each other, swaying and embracing softly. The emotional connection to her fans that Dacus fostered with this particular song was intense, apparent, and nothing short of lovely.
Dacus’ audience is as young as she is, mostly Gen-Zers and millennials, so she knows them well and they love her for it. They began chanting her name immediately after the final song of her set, begging for an encore which she happily granted them. The sleepy, dreamscape feel of the first song and the stunning anger of the soon-to-be-released second were the perfect end to a captivating concert. She told us near the end that she had been nervous because the show was sold out, but went on to say, “I feel very happy up here, and it’s your fault, so thank you for that.”
I wasn’t familiar with Dacus before this night, but it’s clear that she’s a kind, authentic person and a fantastic performer, and she completely won me over. I would love to see her again, especially once I get to know her music better. She’s the kind of voice the industry needs, and her career is certainly one to watch.