In the moments leading up to Lucy Dacus’ performance on October 20th at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer, a series of home videos showing Dacus' upbringing were projected onto the stage. The audience saw videos of newborn Lucy in her mother's arms, to an elementary–aged Lucy singing to the camera, with her face getting closer and closer with each note, until she was kissing the lens. Later, we see Lucy as an awkward teenager: the girl who experienced the first loves, heartbreaks, and more–than–friends friendships that became the fodder for Dacus’ third album, Home Video.
As the home video presentation ended, the show began. Wearing her signature ruby red lipstick, Dacus sang the first lines of “Triple Dog Dare,” the song about a childhood friendship complicated by queer romantic feelings: “I'm not tired yet / We still got a lot to figure out / Like, what was the end of the movie about, anyways?” The Wednesday evening crowd in Callowhill swooned over Dacus and joined her for a two–hour emotional journey.
Dacus, a Philly resident, was excited to perform two shows in the city she calls home. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, she grew up in a religious Christian household and struggled to openly identify with her queerness for much of her childhood. As a result, much of Dacus’ music is about her early years and the quiet lovers who her family wouldn't approve of.
Prior to Home Video, Dacus released No Burden in 2016 and Historian in 2018. In 2018, she formed boygenius with fellow indie–rock starlets Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. They released their first EP boygenius in October 2018.
Dacus began the concert by performing hits from Home Video including “First Time,” “Hot & Heavy,” and “VBS,” an homage to her summers spent at vacation bible school. Even when the crowd didn’t dance to the slower melodies, they sang along, mimicking the soft articulation of Dacus’ lyrics.
“Please Stay,” a song pleading with a close friend to stay alive during a time of despair, was a pivotal moment of the show. Before the song began, Dacus exclaimed, “Well, this one’s gonna be a doozy.” The crowd grew silent and prepared to emote alongside the artist on stage. Dacus’ body remained still during this song, feeling her words as she sang: “You tell me you love me like it'll be thе last time / Like you're playing out thе end of a storyline / I say I love you too because it's true / What else am I supposed to do?”
The final song on the night’s setlist was “Night Shift,” Dacus’ explosive 2018 hit from her second album Historian. With the first chord of the song came a moment of catharsis for Dacus and the crowd: the shared feelings of relief, strength, and the bittersweet nature of moving on from lost love. Dacus promises to open herself to new love despite being hurt by her last relationship: “You got a 9–to–5, so I’ll take the night shift / And I’ll never see you again, if I can help it / In five years I hope the songs feel like covers / Dedicated to new lovers.”
With a beautiful collection of flailing limbs, screaming voices, and flashing red stage lights, the crowd became a single entity, allowing themselves to feel the emotions that Dacus channeled in this song.
For the encore, Dacus returned to the stage without her band. She performed a cover of “Summer in the City” by Regina Spektor and a new song with an unknown title. The audience vowed not to share clips of the unreleased song. As Dacus sang, all phones went into pockets and the audience spent a few intimate moments with her before the show officially ended.
As Lucy Dacus’ twinkling brown eyes and elegant black peasant dress left the stage that evening, the crowd took a collective deep breath. Dacus’ words left the crowd’s hearts open and heads overridden with nostalgia.