Lu Lagoon Celebrates at a Joyous Hi-Dive Record Party

Lu Lagoon Celebrates at a Joyous Hi-Dive Record Party

April 9, 2023 Off By Isobel Thieme
Lu Lagoon graced the Hi-Dive to celebrate their new album (Photo: Isobel Thieme)
Photo: Isobel Thieme

How would it feel to have been at one of Joy Division’s first gigs – or that Sex Pistols show that launched 1,000 UK punk bands? Or to have seen Ed Sheeran stomping and looping in some random London pub in his late teens? Well last Thursday night, fans left the Hi-Dive after Lu Lagoon’s record release party probably feeling a pretty similar vibe. I know I did.

Gracing Denver’s Hi-Dive stage to celebrate the release of their joyous sophomore album, When Birds Fly West, Lu Lagoon delivered a set that left the audience excited for what’s to come. A sweet and impressive feat featuring a splendid and ingenious choice of instruments – including gongs and bagpipes, to name an impressive few – Lu Lagoon’s second full-length album is not one to miss.

 After opener Pictoria Vark – a fitting match and also super-hopeful performer – left the stage, the audience was kept waiting just long enough to build on an eager anticipation, while Black and the rest of the band thoughtfully set the stage. The night felt like one of many moments in which Black’s classical training background and careful intention would be made clear – playing for an excited, anxious, hometown crowd – featuring a healthy dose of visiting family alongside loyal fans – must have encouraged a high level of precision.

Lu Lagoon’s second full-length album is not one to miss

Just as the audience reached a fever pitch, ready to cheer the musicians on, Black requested purple lighting for the stage and it was time to begin. The next sixty-plus minutes were marked by complex and practiced talent, enmeshed with the effortless flow of great musicians & storytellers.

Lauren Black spearheaded the band with well-honed vocals and keys, her voice both booming and soft in the small, tightly packed venue. Absolutely shredding not one, not two – but at least four guitars throughout the set, Madison Madeira added a skillful edge to an already incredible energy.

“It’s a banger – Madison shreds” said Black, before diving into “Fortune Teller,” a single off the new album. Kyle Waggoner on bass and Justin Given on drums kept a solid rhythm section thrusting and chugging through what could easily be hit after hit, proving without a doubt that Lu Lagoon is a band full of possibility.

Lu Lagoon opened with three extra string musicians, filling the tiny Hi-Dive stage with seven people plus their instruments & energy. A sweet, fulfilling symphonic sound created by the violin, viola, and bass gently invited us into their opening track & first new album single, “Blood Moon”, a song Black wrote about climate change for a school assignment. Blood Moon is one of those songs full of imagery and repetition that put me right into the black sky and brown water around, pulling me in and injecting me with the desperate need to do something about it.

Climate change is just one socio-political issue Lu Lagoon tackles on the new album. “Strong Hearts is dedicated to the Denver Dolls,” Black said to introduce the classic rock-y, upbeat song that has previously also been dedicated to guitarist, Madeira. Half-way through, just after a quick riff featuring Drake Bell’s “I Found a Way” (hello, 2004 Nickelodeon), the music paused, and Madeira grabbed hold of the microphone to proudly say “if you don’t support trans people, you can get the fuck out.” The crowd cheered, applauded, and hollered in joyous agreement, solidifying a sense of solidarity and queer safety in the room – something absolutely precious these days.

Lu Lagoon solidified a sense of solidarity and queer safety in the room

When Birds Fly West is Lu Lagoons’ sophomore effort, aptly timed for release to coincide with April’s new moon – also a fitting symbol of release itself. The record features strong themes of nature, astrology, politics, environmentalism, and more – all in a setting of eclectic and brilliant story-telling. Complimenting these inspiring, heavy songs are sweet ballads reflecting themes like the equally unwelcome unique heartbreak that accompanies breaking up with a good friend. As Black’s melodic voice filled the room when they played “Soulless Body,” the crowd was close to silent as they challenged us to reflect on our own losses.      

Black is a classically trained musician, having studied opera while dreaming of Broadway in years past. With Lu Lagoon, Black has taken the chance to explore musical expression outside the confines of her classical training, and the overlap of trained skill and artistic expression (certainly present among all four standing members of the band) creates an exciting listening experience. It’s a hopeful, joyous fate that I can’t help but feel excited about, and so should you.