It’s been a quiet winter/Q1 2019 concert calendar for live music in greater Portland, Maine that I actually want to get out and see/hear. But, like most things in Maine, the scene is heating up heading toward summer. For me, a string of great upcoming concerts was kicked off by Lucy Dacus headlining a great, sold out show, which also featured Fenne Lily and Mal Blum.
A quick word about the openers. I was new to both artists and, in that, I was a minority in the room. My small city continues to impress with the breadth of genres and artists that are supported locally with core, active followings — in this case, a singer/songwriter, folk and anti-folk, indie-rock, punk-supportive crowd. Fenne Lily’s voice was a revelation; beautiful, hushed, aching, at-times wavering and almost brittle-sounding, but with equal depth, heft, and ribbons of steel.
Mal Blum nearly stole the show with a band that was totally in the pocket and their songs’ energy, wit, catchy hooks, and alt-rock and punk-pop power chords (Green Day came to mind a lot). Like all of the acts on the night, lyrics matter and deal directly — deeply — with relationships, identify (sex, gender, social, etc.), injustice, and core themes of love, hope, loss, and anger. Blum’s new single (introduced as a song about being in the closet) hit me especially hard when they belted out an anthemic shout into the void: “If I could I would disappear / But, I’m still here and you’re still here / We’re all still here.”
All of this set the stage well for Lucy Dacus’s potent blend of powerful songwriting, captivating vocals, and guitar-rock grit. She expertly tore through all of the standouts from her hit 2018 record Historian and dug out a couple of songs from her back catalogue.
She also opened and closed her show with solo versions of two new, unreleased tracks, the second of which was just a depth charge of a song that caused everyone in the room — and, it seemed, time itself — to stop. I can’t wait to hear the future released version of the track. In that one song, all of Dacus’s gifts and quiet force were on full display: expert songwriting chops delivering deeply personal, searing lyrics, combined with a great ear for slightly dissonant, confident melodies.
Of all of the songs Historian, I was most looking forward to hearing Night Shift and Timefighter played live. Each include huge builds, loud and gnarley power chords, and soaring vocals. She and her band absolutely slayed them both. I wrote about Night Shift last year, so it’s the other track’s turn up — with a video of it played live to a much bigger room than the one I was in.