Openers: Fenne Lily and Mal Blum
In between tuning intermissions and anecdotes about Cracker Barrel (“It’s the most American thing we’ve done”), Fenne Lily of Bristol, England played an earnest six-song set to open a Tuesday night at Columbus Theatre, where she was joined by guitarist Joe Sherrin. Fenne recorded and released her first album, On Hold, in April 2018 but only played a couple of tracks to the early comers because, as she states it, she’s sick of those songs. Regardless, Fenne’s performance delivered. “I Used to Hate My Body, Now I Just Hate You” and “I, Nietzsche” were easily the crowd favorites. Fenne mentioned that she’s trying to be nicer on stage. She’s a lovely mix of wit and sass but when she sang, perfect, quiet anger and vulnerability emerged to made you feel as if she’s reading from her diary. Fenne’s songs are her burn book. She has a graveyard of dreaded exes and bad breakups and she gave us context and backstory and we loved it. We’ve all picked the wrong people, we all share that angst, but not all of us made the most of it by producing great music.
You know those bands your high school friends were in and how they played shows every weekend and everyone would go and you’d have a blast and it was the best night ever every time? Well, seeing Mal Blum and their folky pop punk band of friends is not unlike those experiences — only this was better because a) you’re not high school and b) Blum is a gifted lyricist backed by amazing musicians. Badass guitarist of the night goes to Audrey Zee Whiteside, whose skill and energy woke me up after a really long March. Blum is an amazing, dizzying, and impressive performer – keep an eye out!
Blum joyfully played just over a handful of songs including “Archive”, “Better Than I Was”, “Things Still Left to Say”, older track “New Years Eve” and “Split Splitting”, which sobered the crowd, bringing us back to tonight’s theme of broken hearts and poor decisions. Blum sang, “I bet you taste like my lowest lows. Bet I don’t ever want to know. But I do.” Blum shared that they have a close personal connection to Rhode Island as they often visit their friend who lives in Wakefield. They take walks along Narragansett Beach and lament broken relationships. The honesty and trust were just so good, particularly for a crowd that definitely likes their break-up or break-up-adjacent tunage. They closed out with a couple of new tracks and a vibe that made us all feel like friends.
Lucy Dacus: This is so fun!
Lucy Dacus headlined with a performance of songs from her stunning debut album, No Burden, the literally perfect follow-up Historian, and a cover of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose”, which she recorded and released for our emotional benefit on Valentine’s Day. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan. I love Lucy. She is grace and poise personified and seeing her live and in color was an absolute treat. She captivated the audience immediately. Her voice, though a little absorbed by instrumentation at the beginning of the set, was as honied and bluesy as it is on record and her band was fantastic — particularly in moments where they flexed rock and roll. “Troublemaker Doppelgänger” and “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” were delightfully raucous, not a word I thought I’d ever use to describe a Lucy Dacus show. Dacus’ presence was warm and sweet, smiling and engaging with the audience often. She told a story of the last time she was in Rhode Island: she played a show in an attic with our very own Roz Raskin.
“Yours and Mine”, Dacus’ brilliant song about the drive to protest amid fear of consequence, brought the seated crowd to their feet where they remained for the duration of the show, an occurrence that is not typical for performances at the Columbus and speaks volumes to Dacus. It’s also important to mention that Lucy Dacus’ guitarist, Jacob Blizard, turns in one of the best and most unforgettable guitar solos on “Yours and Mine”.
It’s hard to pinpoint highlights when everything feels special but I’ll name a few: the audience singing along to every word on break-up anthem “Night Shift,” Dacus and Blizard’s mind-blowingly beautiful performance of “Historian,” or the song that closed the night, a currently unreleased tune that was so heart-rending and personal that not even an ill-advised “Whoo!” from the crowd could ruin the moment. (Also, can we stop doing this during the quiet parts of songs?) Dacus said the show exceeded her expectations and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the same.