Start the Insanity: With Lucius, It's All Good Grief

Acting hysterical has its artistic merits. Just ask Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, the mad geniuses behind Lucius.

With just one listen to Good Grief, their sweet '16 sophomore album released in March, the two co-founders, lead vocalists and leaders of the indie pop band are guaranteed to drive you crazy, too.

Embrace the infinite madness.

To further fortify their shared insanity, the lively ladies of Lucius hit the road hard over the past month behind the release with their two formidable co-members -- Wolfe's husband Dan Molad on drums and Pete Lalish on guitars -- all of whom were ably assisted by touring musicians Casey Foubert (guitar) and Josh Dion (drums).

Warmed up by the Cactus Blossoms' endearing but sleepy supporting set, the Nov. 14 show at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado, was unquestionably one of the best I've seen this year.

Holly Laessig (left) and Jess Wolfe of Lucius perform on Nov. 14
at the Fox Theatre in Boulder.

Propelled by propulsive beats and savory sound bites from the scrumptious ear candy that is Good Grief, their exquisite taste can be heard on such standout numbers as "Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain," "Something About You," "Better Look Back" and, of course, the unhinged lunacy of "Madness" and "Gone Insane."

Lucius, which appeared with Roger Waters at the Desert Trip event before this tour officially kicked off, even introduced a new song, "Pulling Teeth," the title cut of a new 10-inch that will be released Nov. 25. My night would have been complete had they performed another Good Grief favorite -- the irresistibly catchy "Born Again Teen."

Still, for folks like myself at the Fox seeing Lucius for the first time, a double date with Wolfe and Laessig was a combination of absolute euphoria, exuberance, wonderment and weirdness. Their stylistic presence, dressed and coiffed identically like high-fashion models trapped in a Twilight Zone episode, immediately catches your eye.

Were they conjoined twins separated at adulthood? Eastern Europe avant-garde performance artists taking lessons from Annie Clark? Or the two deadly nurses with matching white frocks from American Horror Story, on the lam and in disguise for the sole purpose of scaring the wit out of their next victims?

As soon as they open their mouths, the mystery is solved. Hailing from cities as diverse as Los Angeles (Wolfe) and Cleveland (Laessig), and friends since 2005 as Berklee School of Music students, they are a combination of simultaneous -- and spontaneous -- combustion. (Laessig, right, with Wolfe.)

With resonating voices that seem perfectly in sync, providing a double dose of aural artistry that leaves you begging for more, they also work together instrumentally, whether their fingers are touching a synthesizer or holding a drumstick.

Squeals of delight and cheers of sheer joy emanated often from the packed house as Wolfe and Laessig, blonde hair in devil horns and white dresses covered with elegant, ornately designed capes that prove they usually see eye-to-eye, opened the show with the infectious "Madness." The lyric "What's mine is yours and yours is mine" should've been the Good Grief tour catchphrase.

Keeping talk at a minimum during the first 30 minutes, Lucius soon followed with five consecutive numbers from Wildewoman, their 2013 debut album, a hand-clapping crowd along for the drive on an especially boisterous "Turn It Around."

Then they went digging back into the Good Grief gold mine with the glorious "Something About You" and the wildly frenetic "Gone Insane," its tame opening turned upside down. As the women re-enacted a slow burn face-off over a single mic at stage left, Wolfe and Laessig seemingly vented with outrageous screams before their emotionally spent selves found peace with each other.

"The writing of 'Gone Insane' was based on the feeling after one of those loose cannon type of heated fights, with helplessness and rage hitting you in alternating waves," Laessig explained in publicity material.

"But maybe the perfect description of this song comes in the recording process," Wolfe added. "Holly and I have seen maybe three arguments in the past 12 years. But perhaps the biggest of all, came the day we were to record this song. Emotions were running high, and at some point, Holly blew up at me. In shock, I yelled back and we both stormed off.

"This was a prime example of our partnership because a short while later she returned, we apologized, hugged and immediately went to record. It was just the two of us in the dark."

Darkness aside, Wolfe and Laessig went from white to black outfits backstage during a marvelous instrumental interlude by their band, returning for an engaging encounter with the crowd.

Only this wasn't a perfunctory passing through the front row. "Almighty Gosh" (also from Good Grief) became a spiritual awakening for those in attendance as the pair sauntered down both aisles along the sides of the theatre, descending into the middle of the dance floor for energetic leaps of faith among a house now filled with true believers.

The sharp denizens of this cool college town and the surrounding area needed this baptism in a sea of joy more than ever after what -- for many of them -- transpired the previous week on Election Day. In the presidential race, Hillary Clinton was a resounding winner in Boulder County, earning 70 percent of the vote, but its citizens were astounded by the end result that will put Donald Trump in the White House.

Wolfe deftly touched on the outcome after Lucius' inventive cover of "Uncle John's Band," adding a semi-psychedelic ending to the Grateful Dead song they recorded for the National's Day of the Dead project.

"A lot of crazy things going on in the world," she said with a laugh. "We're not gonna preach politics right now. I think we have had enough. I think we all need a break, and what a wonderful thing to come together and have music (crowd cheers) to help heal us and soothe us and support us through such difficult and trying times. But I do ... we want to ask all of you to take a moment of your day, every day, and smile at your neighbors and say hello to people as they're passing you by on the street because, why not? And support each other and love each other through such times because we're not gonna agree on many things. But we need each other. Love, that's all we got."

Near the end of the regular portion of the show -- which stretched out to 90 minutes with a three-song encore, including a slow, sexy swirl through the classic "Save the Last Dance for Me" (Minneapolis brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum of the Cactus Brothers adding harmonies) -- Lucius appropriately sang "Two of Us on the Run" from Wildewoman and Good Grief's album-closing "Dusty Trails."

We may be "halfway to misery" as Lucius reminds us in an astounding a cappella segment during "Dusty Trails." Or, depending on your point of view, it just might be halfway to heaven, since -- as the line goes -- that path "can lead you to a golden road." Regardless, Wolfe and Laessig assured us: "We'll all be OK."

You don't have to be crazy to believe them. But realizing how crazy-good Lucius is certainly will help.

Publicity photo by Piper Ferguson. Concert photos by Michael Bialas. See more of Lucius from the Nov. 14 show at the Fox Theatre in Boulder.