Moments before the doors to Portland House of Music opened at 8 p.m. Saturday, indie rocker Lucy Dacus stepped out the side door and greeted fans with a timid smile and a wave.

That evening, armed only with a guitar and her signature red lipstick, Dacus took the stage and shared her life experiences through her lyrics to a sold-out crowd of nearly 300 fans, filling every crevice of the 3,500-square-foot space.

Dacus, best known as co-founder of Phoebe Bridgers’ supergroup ensemble Boygenius, has also produced three critically acclaimed albums on her own, most recently, “Home Video.” As a member of Boygenius, Dacus has lent her vocals and lyrics to hard-hitting tracks commenting on politics, mortality, failed romances and the complexity of navigating youth. Dacus brings the same keen observation about her early life to her solo work.

The Virginia native’s lyrics guide the listener on a melancholic tour through the storybook of her life, stopping to peruse the frames of her adolescent photo albums. Dacus sings her autobiography, each tune a chapter in her life.

Soft spoken and poignant, the 26-year old opened with her hit single “Hot and Heavy” (an apt selection, given the uncomfortable heat of the venue), which tells the story of her personal growth, and got the crowd moving. With reminiscence of her first love and a fondness for sophomoric blunders, Dacus’ lyrical nostalgia is a mature perspective on her young naivete – angsty, yet devoid of juvenile complaint. It shouldn’t be hard for listeners to find pieces of themselves in her songs.

Dacus offers an examination and, at times, rejection of her Christian upbringing with songs like “VBS.” “I Don’t Wanna be Funny Anymore” details how the desire to fit in led to her abandonment of her sense of self, when the labels assigned to her by friend groups left her feeling more like an outcast.

Her lyrical savvy and lo-fi melodies are captivating. Deliberate alterations in tempo create an immersive experience to her music, actively shifting the mood of the songs. Thumbing nimbly at the strings of her guitar, Dacus projected her clean tone throughout the intimate venue, allowing the audience to drift away and daydream about each story she told.

The cadence builds progressively throughout many of her tunes, culminating in the relentlessly pounding pulse of youthful freedom and the yearning to reach out for adventure. The music complements her insouciant and modulated delivery, ranging from soft whispers to passionate bellows.

Dacus’ performance was an emotional rollercoaster, provoking smiles and tears from the audience, which felt like a return to normalcy for the Portland music scene.

Milena Calcagni is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in southern Maine.


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