At the Cobalt on Monday, July 24
The greatness of a club show can sometimes best be measured by what people don’t say on the dancefloor during a set. That’s especially true in Vancouver, where standing there blabbing about the weather, real estate prices, and the cost of a single scoop at Earnest Ice Cream is practically a regional pastime.
As artists from Matmos to Jeff Tweedy to Camera Obscura have discovered over the years, attentiveness is not always our strong point.
The rapt silence then for the duration of Lucy Dacus’s stellar Cobalt performance on Monday spokes volumes about the magic created on-stage. The Virginia-based indie-rock chanteuse—who’s been deservedly pegged as an artist who’s going to break big time—was making her first appearance in Vancouver. Not only that, she had the ever-daunting challenge of rolling into town on a weeknight where no one is in the mood to rip things up.
Maybe that worked to Dacus’s advantage at the Cobalt. Or, more likely, she was so effortlessly charming (in an endearingly unpretentiousness way) that those who ventured downtown didn’t dare spoil the mood.
A crowd of 100 or so showed up to position themselves on the dancefloor of the Downtown Eastside club and then stand actually listening to the 21-year-old singer’s set. The only time you heard anything between songs, when the applause was enthusiastic enough to make Dacus beam.
Delivering a mix of new material and songs off last-year’s pretty much flawless debut No Burden, the singer gave her newfound fans plenty to love.
As performer, one gets the sense that she’s still finding her footing a bit, which makes sense as she’s still relatively new at the game.
She’s already nailed it on the all-important art of connecting with stage banter, the singer giving a shout-out to David Suzuki and admitting she arrived in the Great White North horribly overdressed for the weather (to the point where she revealed she was removing her jean jacket mid-set so she didn’t pass out.)
As far as stage presence went, most of the night found her bouncing from foot to foot, content to be part of a team with her backing band—guitarist Jacob Blizard, ever-bobbing bassist Robbie King, and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino.
If she’s not yet Courtney Barnett yet as far as the DIY-rock-star showmanship goes, that was fine—better to do what comes naturally at the moment rather than trying too hard. And considering the strength and lyrical cleverness of standouts like “Green Eyes Red Face”, it’s not like anyone went home upset she wasn’t stage-diving from the speakers or rolling around in peanut butter and broken glass.
As the night went on it became a point of debate as to what made the show so strong.
Consider the singer’s powerhouse voice, which suggested a more bright-eyed and at times enchantingly jazz-slurred version of Cat Power. And then there was the strength of her backing band, with Lagomasino putting on a clinic behind the kit for “Troublemaker Doppelgänger” and Blizard often filling the space in and between songs with waves of Sonic Youth-strength guitar atmospherics.
Let’s not forget Dacus, who spoke volumes about herself as a person when she thanked everyone profusely for making her first trip to Vancouver wonderful, and then seemed genuinely amazed when she was called back for an encore.
Aware that there was a 10 p.m. curfew thanks to a regular club night at the Cobalt, she asked bar staff if she was allowed to play one more song. When the answer was yes, Dacus asked whether people wanted a cover or an original.
You can guess what the answer was, the audience hanging on every line as Dacus finished the night alone on-stage with nothing but her guitar. If only more nights in Vancouver were this perfect.