On Oct. 26, I went to my first live, off-campus performance in three years. Lucy Dacus performed her third album “Home Video” at Brooklyn Steel, and it was a night full of nostalgia, angst and joy. The walk to the venue was damp and cold, but once my friend and I arrived, all that mattered was that we were going to be engulfed by music all night long. We walked in while the opener, Bartees Strange, provided a mixture of covers and originals that got the crowd bobbing and dancing around. I enjoyed the banter and energy of the lead singer and felt warmed up to hear the headline act.
After the opening act, Dacus’ home videos from childhood to adolescence played on a screen. These clips of her evoked a sense of intimacy. From the projector screen with the videos to the calming purple and blue lighting, the space felt set up for a cozy and enjoyable experience. Before this concert, I had already listened to most of Dacus’ songs and my favorites were “Thumbs,” an intense ballad about less-than-ideal father figures, and “Night Shift,” Dacus’ most popular song and the one that first drew me into her music.
The air around me buzzed as Dacus and her band walked on stage. She opened the show with “First Time,” an indie-pop tune about having sex for the first time with someone, and how it sticks with a person, no matter how many times it happens again. The rest of the setlist provided the perfect balance between her heavier, more emotional songs and her more upbeat and danceable ones. They played “Thumbs” right around the halfway point, and it served as the most intense song of the night. I could feel the weight of the room and knew that there were many others who, like me, all wished they had friends who would hold their hands while their distant dads yearned to visit again long after apologies were possible. Two songs later, a moment of darkness descended on the stage as the band changed and tuned their instruments. When the lights came back, the whole crowd went wild at the reveal of Phoebe Bridgers on stage. Screams, gasps and smiles filled the space. Everyone’s phones, including my own, came out in a sea of flashes to capture the surprise guest. Dacus and Bridgers were in a trio called boygenius along with fellow singer Julien Baker (there was an attempt to also get Baker for the night, but it failed due to scheduling conflicts). Bridgers then sang “Please Stay” and “Going Going Gone,” adding lovely harmony to Dacus’ melody. The adrenaline of surprise succumbed to excitement at the start of the closing song “Night Shift” with the opening band Bartees Strange, making it a screaming, jumping and fist-pumping end to the main set.
The crowd wanted more, and Dacus’ band gave an encore. A performance of the slow- building, seven minute ballad “Triple Dog Dare” ensued, which preceded an unreleased song that served as a soft hug goodbye to a memorable night with friends. The walk back to the subway station felt like walking on clouds, despite the pouring rain. The long train ride home made the whole night seem like a dream, and by the end of the ride I half-expected to just magically wake up and realize the buzzing was just me falling asleep with my headphones on again. With the chaotic past 20 months, it felt like the day would never come that I would be in a concert venue again. But with a mask and vaccination card, it was possible to finally hear music performed live with the people I love and complete strangers.