Though only 24, Lucy Dacus has already made a big impact. The Richmond, Virginia indie rocker’s second album Historian, released last year, was hailed “ a career album” by Paste, who also noted “she’s really only just getting started.” Widespread critical acclaim and consistent performances brought her to the ACL stage for her debut taping, and she delivered with a powerful set drawing from across her catalog. (Note: the appearance was scheduled to be a dual taping with fellow singer-songwriter Julien Baker, but due to unforeseen medical circumstances Baker was unable to perform).
Taking the stage and strapping on an acoustic guitar, Dacus talked about the relationship between performer and audience, noting that it revolved around mutual trust. That led, naturally, into the introspective “Trust,” a song she wrote when she was sixteen. “Beauty is the only way/To make the nightmares go away,” she sang softly as she strummed. Guitarist Jacob Blizard, bassist Dominic Angelella and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino then joined her – “They’re cute and nice, and good people” – as she donned her Telecaster for “Addictions,” a shuffling rocker keying on the contrast between her smoky croon and the fuzzy guitars. “Green Eyes, Red Face” followed, unrolling like a carpet, starting quietly and building to a near-anthemic reach. The social commentary of “Yours & Mine” followed a similar path, from folky placidity to rock power.
Blizard and Angelella (wielding Dacus’ acoustic) sat on the floor with their instruments while their leader, accompanying herself on a handheld synthesizer, sang “My Mother & I” – a new song and one of a string of holiday-themed singles she’s releasing this year. The band resumed their customary positions for “Forever Half Mast,” a new July Fourth themed midtempo folk rocker amplified by a noisy guitar solo. She flipped that script for her breakout 2015 single, the witty “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” starting with fuzzy decay and moving into a brisk jangle. “I’ve always understood and felt very at home here,” Dacus commented about Austin, before starting the slow strum that heralded the wry, thoughtful “Night Shift,” which almost casually evolved from pensive tranquility to a wall of distortion – much to the appreciation of the crowd.
After the rhythm section left the stage, Dacus delivered a stately “Historians,” with only Blizard’s effects-soaked guitar swells as consort. Then Blizard also quit the stage, leaving Dacus alone with her Tele to deliver “Fool’s Gold,” a beautiful unrecorded tune. The audience went wild following its conclusion. It was a lovely show by an important new talent, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as part of ACL’s upcoming milestone 45th season.