Music brings people of all walks of life together — even two self-proclaimed “weirdos from different parts of the country” who want to pay it forward.
Fans of the Los Angeles-based fashion savvy quartet Lucius have a whole lot to repay in kind after this last Friday’s sold-out “Nudes Acoustic Tour” at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC. It was the 16th stop on their spring North American tour supporting their third full-length album, Nudes, released on Mom + Pop Music, in collaboration with Electric Lady Studios. While their new project may have only taken a couple days to record, its 10 acoustic tracks (three brand new songs, three covers, and four reworking of previous material) will keep your brain and your boombox occupied much longer.
The group includes singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, drummer Dan Molad, and guitarist Peter Lalish. Musician Jay Blynn joined the foursome on tour. They took the stage and commenced the opening beats of “Go Home” — the third track off their 2013 debut full-length album Wildewoman — and the crowd cheered. They followed that with three songs from the new album and then greeted the audience.
“D.C.! It is good to see you,” yelled Jess. “It’s going to be a good night. I can feel it.” After finishing her water she quipped, “Now we better not fuck it up.” Spoiler alert: they didn’t mess up anything, including their surprise raffle-turned-marriage proposal about halfway through the show despite their own logistical concerns.
“We got an email earlier this afternoon [the ‘Proposal’ comes after ‘Madness’ and before ‘True Love’ on the official typed setlist], and we were like, ‘Yes, of course! Let’s make this happen. Let’s do this up!’ And then I got really nervous. I was like, ‘What are we going to say?’,” said Jess.
“What to say? How are we going to get them to come up on stage? How are we going to hand them a microphone?” said Holly. “I was going through all these things with Jess. We don’t want to mess it up.”
The raffle ruse was brilliant. Both the audience and the band were entertained as everyone searched to see if they sat in the winning seats B101 and B102. Julianne P. and Kenna B., both of Washington, D.C., were the “grand prize winners” and took to the stage to collect their award. But when Kenna took a knee and asked for Julianne’s hand in marriage, the entire theater erupted with cheers. Kenna declared that their shared passion for music was the “greatest thing we share besides our passion for one another.” Julianne said yes AND got to keep the setlist and autographed Nudes album and tour poster.
Other highlights of the night included artfully executed renditions of the following cover songs: “Sweet and Tender Romance” performed by The McKinleys in 1964 (listen closely to the original and you can hear a young Jimmy Page on guitar), and 1970 classic “Strangers” by The Kinks. It’s four days later and I can’t seem to get the high-energy, rhythmic 2013 tune “Turn it Around,” or the 2016 swirling serenade “Madness” out of my head. Ethan Gruska’s return to the stage to sing with Holly and Jess on “Dusty Trails” reminded me why it’s always important to catch the opening act.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the setting and attire. The parallel rows of four floor spotlights that beamed dark, rich color through artificial fog helped set the show’s mood. The band’s name glowed in neon above the stage. The women wore long olive green cloaks embroidered with bright flowers over black turtlenecks and pants. Their red ankle high boots offered a bright spot on the otherwise dark stage. Their fingers and faces were adorned with silver glitter and decorative rhinestones. Long fake lashes and the bright blond wigs added a bit more theatricality to the overall aesthetic. Overall it complimented the historic theater’s decor quite well.
The 75-minute set wasn’t long enough. In fact, while vocalists Holly and Jess were waxing nostalgic about their 13-year career and thanking places like NPR’s Tiny Desk series for having them perform (yes, host Bob Boilen was in attendance), a fan shouted: “I was there.” The women thanked her and continued to share how singing for a living is an “unbelievable dream come true.” Another fan yelled: “So sing forever!” Jess replied: “That would be a lot of singing.”
Before closing with a goosebump-inducing a cappella version of “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Disney’s Cinderella, the women took a moment to further connect with the audience and make a final request.
“Most importantly, the greatest dream that we’ve discovered that we have through this is that you each take something from this moment that we’re sharing right now. Whatever it is that you need it to be – whether it’s humor or bittersweetness or love, joy […]” said Jess. “We’re just a bunch of weirdos trying our best. If you can take something from this that we’re sharing tonight, and bring it into your everyday life. Into your life outside of this theater, and somehow in some positive way pay it forward to somebody. All we need right now is compassion. All we need is empathy and love […] The world would be a better place. I know that you all know that.”
The full setlist can be found here. Jess and Holly will be reuniting with former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters on the European leg of his Us + Them Tour. Fans stateside jonesing for their Lucius fix will have to wait until mid-summer when they play Union Transfer in Philadelphia July 25 and the Newport Folk Festival July 27 in Rhode Island. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Here are some pictures of Lucius performing at the Lincoln Theatre on March 23, 2018. All photos copyright and courtesy of Theresa C. Sanchez.