Not long ago, the group text thread shared by Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker lit up with exciting news: They’d been offered a slot at Woodstock 50, the three-day festival taking place this August at a racetrack in Watkins Glen, New York. “Once we realized it could happen, the whole text chain became all-caps: ‘WE GET TO SEE EACH OTHER AND PLAY A SHOW!'” Dacus recalls.
The three talented singer-songwriters teamed up last year as Boygenius, releasing a great EP and touring together in the fall, but their schedules since then have been too packed to do much more: Bridgers is currently on tour with Conor Oberst as Better Oblivion Community Center, Dacus is on the road with her band, and all three of the indie-rock super-friends are working on new solo projects. That leaves Woodstock 50 as Boygenius’ only scheduled performance as a trio in 2019.
“This is the one where the stars aligned,” Dacus tells Rolling Stone. “I’m honestly just really excited to do another show with Phoebe and Julien. It’s the only show that we have on the books, so it’s the only assurance that Boygenius really exists.”
Thinking out loud, she adds: “I’m hoping there’s not a curse. Everyone talks about Woodstock ’99. Maybe we’re going to encounter some dark energy at this fest. But I’m up for some weirdness.”
Playing Woodstock 50 makes sense for a trio that is, in part, a playful reaction to supergroups of the past — as seen on the cover of the Boygenius EP, a visual reference to 1969 Woodstock alums Crosby, Stills and Nash. “That idea for the photo was Phoebe’s,” Dacus says. “I think the symbolism of the image, taking the form of some classic-rock dudes, comes through. It’s important to show up as ladies, to fill in the place that men have had for so long.”
She hopes that Woodstock 50’s organizers are able to do something similar with this year’s festival, whose lineup includes a few returning acts from the original 1969 weekend (Santana, Dead & Company, John Fogerty), along with newer acts ranging from Brandi Carlile and Janelle Monae to Soccer Mommy, Courtney Barnett and Margo Price. “They have a chance to use the form of the old Woodstock and show that there’s been change in what music looks like — not only what music sounds like, but who’s making it,” Dacus says.
Otherwise, Dacus has plenty to keep her busy both before and after she heads to upstate New York this summer. She recently released a romantic cover of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” for Valentine’s Day, the first in a series of one-off originals and covers she’ll be rolling out throughout 2019. Each of the singles is thematically tied to a holiday, with songs planned for Mother’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween and Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday, among others.
“Bruce’s birthday should be a national holiday,” she says. “It definitely is in the Dacus household.” While her father is a self-proclaimed Number One Springsteen fan, she herself discovered the New Jersey icon’s music relatively late. “I hated him in middle school because my dad loved him so much, but then if you listen, it’s undeniable that he is a poet and a keen observer of the world,” Dacus continues. “And the songs are bops. He has the gift of making songs that feel good but contain depth, and ask something from his listeners.”
Dacus has also written most of a new solo album, entirely separate from the singles series, with plans to record the follow-up to her 2018 LP Historian later this year. “The material really freaks me out,” she says. “It’s largely about early childhood and early friendships and family, and weird stuff that you’re taught when you’re a kid, and things you have to unlearn — gender, sexuality, what loyalty looks like, what trust is. It makes my throat close up a little bit to think about sharing these songs.”
In the meantime, she can’t wait to catch up with Bridgers and Baker when their schedules allow it next month. “We’re probably going to get matching tattoos, which will be sweet,” Dacus says. She’s planning to ink a single tooth on her right ring finger — “like ‘Bite the Hand,’” she explains, referring to the stunning ballad that opens the Boygenius EP.
Unlike her bandmates, Dacus has never been tattooed before. “I’ve been afraid, because it seems like you can never be naked again after you get a tattoo,” she says. “But now seems like the right time.”