For the casual Rising Festival fan, US singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus was probably not an artist on the radar for many, even as a headliner at the Forum.
But it was clear she didn't need any help drawing a crowd, even on a cold Melbourne Wednesday night (8 June), with the beautiful venue packed by 9.30pm and waiting her arrival.
Opening with 'First Time' from 2021's 'Home Video', her third album, it would have been the perfect happy-but-sad, indie-folk-pop introduction to anyone new to her music – except it was hard to see anyone who didn't know the lyrics in the crowd.
And the top end of the set focused on her most recent and more upbeat release, with 'Hot & Heavy', 'Christine', 'VBS' and 'Cartwheel' following – all of side A if the opener is included.
Dacus, who also plays in supergroup boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, is a storyteller at heart. Her songs are filled with teenage and 20-something angst and confusion and questioning of relationships, religion and self, but are also informed by something beyond her (27) years.
This was starkly clear on her solo rendition of 'Home Video' highlight 'Thumbs', a story about somehow containing emotions while meeting up with a partner's absent father at a bar. While specific, the story felt universal, which Dacus seems to deliver with ease.
So it was no surprise then that she introduced the best song she's ever written: musical hero Bruce Springsteen's 'Dancing In The Dark’. It would have been a perfect encapsulation of her ability to pair gravitas with celebration and melody, if it hadn't been for the next two songs she'd play.
Saving perhaps the best for last, Dacus finished the set with 'Night Shift', the gut-punch opener from 2018's 'Historian', which was accompanied by an impressive audience sing-along, and 'Triple Dog Dare' as the epic encore number.
Lucy admitted she was not confident playing this one last time she toured, just after she'd written it. But this eight-minute epic is the epic glue that holds 'Home Video' together and it was an absolute pleasure to see how far it, and Dacus, have come.
She finished with a new song on acoustic guitar, one that referenced her home town of Richmond, Virginia, to an incredibly respectful and quiet Forum crowd, and her earnest requests to not record the tune as it was still a work in progress seemed dutifully respected.
At one point earlier Dacus asked the audience if it was their first gig back since COVID restrictions, to which a lot of people cheered. They can certainly count themselves lucky, then, for their first back being surely one of the special gigs of the year.