I first discovered Lucy Dacus just over a year ago when she opened for The National summer 2018. The crowd whooped at the high points of her hit song “Night Shift” and cheered on the band during the powerful beat of “Timefighter.” I left the venue that night talking just as much about Dacus as the headliner.
It’s fitting she’s now returned to Madison, headlining a show of her own with two female-led opening acts — Sun June and Liza Anne — for more lovers of moody, powerful indie-rock to discover.
“I’ve only ever been happy in this town,” Dacus said toward the end of her set. “I think I like Madison.”
The sold-out show was packed with millennials holding drinks, the colorful lights and intimate space of the Majestic theater painting the venue as the coolest house party you’ve ever been to. And if the concert was a party, Dacus was the host, with her soaring voice and gut-punch lyrics ensuring you RSVP to the next one.
She kicked off her set with a slow and mournful unreleased song, causing everyone to fall silent in anticipation. Dacus played the song on her guitar without any other accompaniment.
Dacus’ irresistible voice guided the crowd through her biggest hits from her 2018 album Historian with a few highlights from her 2016 debut No Burden sprinkled in. She and her band transitioned effortlessly between more upbeat songs like “The Shell” to slower jams like “Yours & Mine.”
A mid-set cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” energized the audience and turned into what Dacus called “group karaoke,” one of her favorite parts of playing the cover during her tour.
It was obvious Dacus enjoyed herself up on stage, grinning as she performed songs between little snippets of conversation with the audience about everything from her band members, astrology to politics.
“I hope that Trump gets impeached,” she announced in lieu of a longer story about herself. Dacus also mentioned that an organization supporting LGBTQ+ rights was at the concert along with information about a text code to help with voter registration.
Highlights included the band’s dramatic shifts between silences and the band’s loud exclamation points to Dacus’ lyrics during the head-banger “Timefighter” and the climax of the show, one of the all-time best break-up anthems, “Night Shift.”
During repetitions of the chorus, the loudest audience singing of the night burst forth: “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.”
Dacus played for about an hour including the encore, which felt a bit short, but with two opening acts, the show as a whole was a good length. Together, the three groups formed a night where women sang everything — from upbeat to slow, honest to light-hearted, rock to pop, and no subject was off-limits.
Sun June, a band originally from Austin, Texas, began the show, and although lead singer Laura Colwell told the audience that she was sick and having a hard time with her voice, she owned it. Colwell made a few jokes about her illness between songs, and Sun June’s style of drawn-out, soulful pop wasn’t one to suffer from a few voice cracks.
Liza Anne brought the energy next with powerhouse vocals and songs about everything from panic attacks to ghosting your therapist. Dacus brought her back on stage for the last song of the encore, a cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” that ended the concert on another high note.
With all three acts boasting strong performances, it shouldn’t be long before they return to Madison, either as a group again or headlining separate shows with opening acts of their own, beginning the cycle all over again.
Dana Brandt is the college news editor for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.