It was full speed right from the start. The murmur of casual conversations beneath the warm glow of the Fillmore’s chandeliers and the crunching of house-provided scarlet apples between teeth were immediately overpowered by the high voltage set gathering speed on stage.
Like the retro queens out of your 80s dreams, the two front women of Brooklyn-based Lucius swept onto stage wearing matching white capes emblazoned with a crest featuring lightning bolts and all–seeing eyes. Our hearts were captured from the outset, pulled into the gentle, ambient opening of “Madness.” Lights flashed off the iridescent backdrop as the punchy chorus penetrated every corner of the room. After that, songs issued forth in a circus of sensation.
Harmonies that would shame any church choir soared above the simultaneously soft and sharp notes of “Go Home.” The whole gang beat and battered an assortment of percussion instruments in the more abrasive and unsettling “Turn it Around.” Disoriented, we felt like we were all looking through the “wrong end of the telescope” after a raucous outro.
The tide did begin to finally recede about halfway through the show when the ladies stepped up to a shared mic for a soul-stirring rendition of “Gone Insane.” With clenched fists, furrowed brows, and open mouths they howled into the microphone between them, threatening to reduce it to a pile of molten metal under the intense heat of their exchange. They then quietly glided off stage like ghosts that had never been there.
Moments later there was a stir and all of a sudden the duo was silently sifting right past us, through the crowd to the center of the room where they continued to perform. Sorceresses in more ways than one, they had quickly ditched the white capes in favor of tasseled black ones.
Shortly after this communion with the crowd came one of the few non-musical dialogues of the night. Front woman Jess Wolfe tapped into post-election sentiments, wagering to a thunderous response that “most of the people in this room probably feel the same as we do.” They promoted a message of love and gratitude for the freedom to share the room with such a warm group. In line with the unapologetic feminism featured in much of their work, they directed audience members to Planned Parenthood donation boxes throughout the venue and urged ardent listeners to seek active involvement in the causes they care about.
The intimacy of this address spilled into a charged and tender “Two of us on the Run.” At points it became difficult to hear the audio from the microphone with everyone reverberating “There’s no race, there’s only a runner / Just keep one foot in front of the other.” The remainder of the show was no less mesmerizing. The instrumentals that so perfectly guided the musical journey through the night suddenly dropped for the bridge of “Dusty Trails.” The words “I’m halfway to misery / Some say when you go halfway there’s still plenty of time to return” froze around our beating hearts. The idea that “some say when you go halfway there’s still plenty of time to return” left us pondering. The possibility of warmth emerged as the instruments began to build back in, wondering “Am I halfway to heaven here.” Finally, the ice began to thaw and heat burst through the room when we realized “some may say when you go halfway you only have halfway to go.”
The encore was reassuring and euphoric. Lucius gave us some romance with a crooning cover of the Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance for Me” sung in a tiered harmony with openers The Cactus Blossoms. This idea of romance grew into a message of oceanic and encompassing love with “How Loud Your Heart Gets.” Unexpectedly concluding with the whimsical “Genevieve,” the closing chorus shook the crystal teardrops of the chandeliers and left us all with a lightness we had not yet been introduced to upon arrival.
Lucius’ show was a timely reminder that music is medicine. As far as the intimacy of their performances is concerned, little has changed since I first saw them play as the opener at a dive bar in Chapel Hill back in 2012. These San Francisco shows rounded out the Good Grief tour. While I still don’t think everyone in the room has fully come to terms with the events of recent weeks, Lucius gave us a taste of collective grief release that was really, really good.
Article and Photos by Conner Smith