New Year's Eve with Lucy Dacus
Johnny Brenda's Presents

New Year's Eve with Lucy Dacus

Performers:
Lucy Dacus
Mal Blum
Addy
Ages 21+
Lucy Dacus with Mal Blum & Addy at Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia
  • 8PM - Doors
  • 9PM - Addy
  • 10PM - Mal Blum
  • 11PM - Lucy Dacus

LUCY DACUS

You said, “Don't go changing.

I'll rearrange to let you in

and I'll be your historian

and you'll be mine.

And I'll fill pages of scribbled ink,

hoping the words carry meaning.”

Then one day, the motorcade,

covered in flower wreaths,

first in a big parade,

will come to take one of us away

leaving the other with plenty to read.

Lucy Dacus is done thinking small. Two years after her 2016 debut, No Burden, won her unanimous acclaim as one of rock's most promising new voices, Dacus returns on March 2 with Historian, a remarkably assured 10-track statement of intent. It finds her unafraid to take on the big questions — the life-or-death reckonings, and the ones that just feel that way. It's a record full of bracing realizations, tearful declarations and moments of hard-won peace, expressed in lyrics that feel destined for countless yearbook quotes and first tattoos.

"This is the album I needed to make," says Dacus, who views Historian as her definitive statement as a songwriter and musician. "Everything after this is a bonus."

She emphasizes that she does not take her newfound platform as a touring musician for granted. "I have this job where I get to talk to people I don't know every night," she remembers thinking on the long van rides across America to support No Burden. Realizing that she would have a dramatically expanded audience for her second album, she felt an urgent call to make something worthwhile: "The next record should be the thing that's most important to say."

The past year, with its electoral disasters and other assorted heartbreaks, has been a rough one for many of us, Dacus included. She found solace in crafting a thoughtful narrative arc for Historian, writing a concept album about cautious optimism in the face of adversity, with thematic links between songs that reveal themselves on repeat listens. "It starts out dark and ends hopeful, but it gets darker in between; it goes to the deepest, darkest, place and then breaks," she explains. "What I'm trying to say throughout the album is that hope survives, even in the face of the worst stuff."

Dacus and her band recorded the album in Nashville last March, re-teaming with No Burden producer Collin Pastore, and mixed it a few months later with A-list studio wizard John Congleton. The sound they created, with substantial input from multi-instrumentalist and live guitarist Jacob Blizard, is far richer and fuller than the debut — an outward flowering of dynamic, living, breathing rock and roll. Dacus' remarkable sense of melody and composition are the driving force throughout, giving Historian the immersive feel of an album made by an artist in full command of her powers.

The album opens with a striking three-track run. First comes "Night Shift," the only breakup song Dacus has ever written: "In five years I hope the songs feel like covers, dedicated to new lovers," she memorably declares. Next is the catchy, upbeat first single "Addictions," inspired in part by the dislocated feeling of life on the road and the lure of familiarity ("I’m just calling cause I’m used to it/And you’ll pick up cause you’re not a quitter…"), followed by "The Shell," a reflection on (and embrace of) creative burnout. There's nothing tentative about this opening sequence. Right away, it's clear that Dacus is on a new level of truth-telling and melodic grace.

Another key highlight is track five, "Yours & Mine" — "the centerpiece where the whole album hinges in on itself," Dacus says. Using a call-and-response format, she wrestles with the question of how best to participate in a community broken by injustice and fear while staying true to what one believes is right. "It's about realizing your power as a person, and deciding to do the less safe but ultimately more powerful move, which is to move physically forward — show up and march — and move forward politically," says Dacus, who began writing the song during the 2015 Baltimore Uprising against systemic racism.

Historian closes with two stunning songs: "Pillar of Truth," a heartfelt tribute to Dacus' late grandmother, and "Historians," which sums up the album's complex lessons about loss. "From the first song to 'Pillar of Truth,' the message is: You can't avoid these things, so accept them. There's ways to go about it with grace and gratefulness," she says. "Then 'Historians' says that even if you can say that, there's still fear, and loss is terrifying. You still love things, so it's going to hurt. But dark isn't bad. It's good to know that.”

MAL BLUM

Simply put: Pity Boy is an album that examines the patterns that recur over the course of our lives and what happens when we try (and often fail) to break them.

This is not a linear process, and neither is Pity Boy. Its protagonist cycles through different ages, life stages, and relationships, sometimes even within the same song (as in the case of the contemplative “Salt Flats” or the concluding “Maybe I’ll Wait”) but the themes remain the same.

Over the course of twelve tracks, Blum tells a story about: bad habits, self-sabotage, setting boundaries, ignoring those boundaries for familiar, comfortable mistreatment, and crawling on their knees through the dirt toward a begrudging optimism. They hope someone will see them as they are, will hear them, will listen. They’re doing the grueling work of becoming, and documenting it in a rock record that nestles somewhere between indie, punk, and pop.

Though the subject matter gets heavy, Blum’s wry, self-aware sense of humor weaves its way throughout the record. Pity Boy’s pithy title was “just a funny pun I thought of, like, a sad pretty boy,” Blum explains. It’s a worthy expansion on 2015’s You Look A Lot Like Me (Blum’s fourth album, but their label debut). Since then, Blum has become one of Don Giovanni’s most popular artists, whether you’re counting streams, bodies at concerts, or pieces of plastic sold. They’ve toured relentlessly, both solo and with a band, most notably this year traveling in support of Lucy Dacus as well as the live show of popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale.

It’s impactful to listen to these songs through a transgender lens – and some of the songs do touch on Blum’s experience coming out as transgender (“Things Still Left to Say” and “See Me,” respectively) - but truthfully, all these songs offer crashes of loneliness and sparks of euphoric recognition that will feel familiar to many surviving in 2019.

“Honestly, I think it was just, like, the next chapter of my therapy session,” says Blum. “The last record was like, ‘Oh, okay, for the first time I’ve admitted to myself that I am struggling in a clinical sense’ But after that, you have to take all that self-examination to the next step, which is: ‘Why do I do the things I do? What are these cycles in my life that are or are not helping me?’ That’s the place that I was in when I wrote almost all of these songs.”

For the first time, Blum recorded with their backing band, The Blums: Audrey Zee Whitesides (guitar), Barrett Lindgren (bass), and Ricardo Lagomasino (drums). The songs were written over the period of a year, then workshopped in sporadic arranging sessions between bandmates before being put to tape with Joe Reinhart (Hop Along) at Headroom Studios in Philadelphia.

“The people in this lineup have had an effect on how the record sounds,” says Blum. “Their tastes influenced me and it quite a bit.” Mal had the vision, but The Blums brought the arrangement ideas, skilled instrumentation, and the collaboration needed to bring that vision to life. It’s a full & dynamic addition to Blum’s hefty body of work, sometimes tight and loud (like the pop-punk inspired“Gotta Go”), but capable of sprawl and vulnerability (like the resigned “Black Coffee”).

“Did you get what you wanted, or at least did you want what you got?” Blum asks mid-album (“Did You Get What You Wanted”). It’s a worthy question to consider, one that is not conclusively answered by the end of the record. The album tackles life as a work-in-progress, with a steady drip of idealism that something better will come, but the relentless self-awareness that it may not. Even now, when Pity Boy is finished & pressed to wax, the story is still beginning, starting over, faltering, and begging to be told.

ADDY

addy brings contemplative bedroom musings of friendship, heartbreak, and growth to life through songs that are equally familiar and refreshing. with warm guitars, poetic lyrics, and catchy drum machine hooks you’ll understand that dancing and mourning are not mutually exclusive.

Venue Information:
Johnny Brenda's
1201 N. Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA, 19125