Ah, yes. Lucius brought artsy indie pop to an artsy indie Skidmore. What a fit!
Lucius’ Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe took the stage outside the Tang Art Museum on Friday night to much fanfare. The crowd was large and diverse, ranging from first-year students looking for a party to the senior SEC members running the event (who were also, admittedly, likely looking for a party). Students were, as is often the case early in the semester, still straddling the happy divide between summer and fall, where academics have yet to fully hit their stride.
I would have expected Lucius to capitalize on this energy and open with one of their trademark indie pop heavy-hitters such as “Turn It Around” or “Tempest.” But as Ms. Laessig and Ms. Wolfe walked out, looking like twin American Goldfinches in their identical modish yellow dresses, they headed not to their front-and-center, mirrored synthesizers but to a vintage ribbon microphone on the far right side of the stage. The two women looked at one another as Ms. Wolfe held out a printed lyric sheet. Slowly, they began to harmonize on The Zombies’ “The Way I Feel Inside,” unaccompanied by instruments. As the song built, so did the band. Dan Molad’s drums began to lend shape to the vocal ether, and then guitarists Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri came in, at first quietly then more pronounced. By the end of the song, Lucius had fully assembled before us.
While these quieter moments teetered on the brink of being drowned out by the rowdy audience, they ultimately proved to highlights of an evening that ran the gamut between delicacy and ferocity. Lucius’ set consisted of songs from their 2013 debut Wildewoman (including “Go Home,” “Don’t Just Sit There,” and “Tempest”), as well as unreleased songs from their impending follow-up album, due out in 2016. Laessig and Wolfe split duties on the keys, while Burri swapped between rhythm guitar and drums. The members of Lucius seem to have no problems switching roles; Wolfe and Laessig added drums on the tribal “Nothing Ordinary,” demonstrating a musical versatility that in part springs from the two front women’s time at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where they first met. It was this period of their lives that they seemed to reflect on as they sang “We were children, now we’ve grown,” the pre-chorus to “How Loud Your Heart Gets,” while gazing out into a sea of buzzing undergraduates. Earlier, Ms. Wolfe acknowledged a waft of marijuana smoke coming from the audience: “Smells like you’re having fun,” she said with a knowing smile. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the singer—now thirty—spoke more from a nostalgic place than a presently relatable one.
Speaking with rhythm guitarist Andrew Burri before the show, it became clear that the band’s swift rise in popularity has led to their shows varying wildly in scale. The next night they’d perform at Middlebury, but next week they will be opening for The Decemberists at NYC’s Radio City. I asked Burri whether a small college show like this felt insignificant compared to playing a venue like Radio City, and was surprised to find that his feelings were quite to the contrary: “At Radio City, we’ll show up and get our stuff set up. We’ll play the show, and be done at 8:45. You show up, you play, you’re done. But this is our show, we’re headlining. There’s more production and more pressure.”
So there you have it folks, playing at Skidmore > playing at Radio City. One thing is certain: Lucius gave a performance worthy of either.
Albums Lucius are listening to:
Jess Wolfe: Alabama Shakes, “Sound & Color”
Holly Laessig: Perfume Genius, “Too Bright”
Andrew Burri: Keenan O’Meara, “Awful Creature EP”