Waxahatchee @Hare and Hounds, 15th June 2018

As we walk into the main room at the Hare and Hounds tonight, the opening song by Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield is being played; acoustic, solo, stark and heartfelt, and the striking thing is that the audience is silent and transfixed. By silent I mean…. totally silent. Pin dropped clatteringly loud silent. My companion for the evening states after the show that she has never seen a gig audience so mesmerised and respectful of an artist before, and that is the way it stays throughout the opening number and through to the final two acoustic encores. It’s a joy to behold from a Birmingham audience.

Eight days earlier I was standing in a grassy amphitheatre in Portugal, ice cold lager in hand, watching the opening band on the mainstage at my favourite festival. I’d dragged my companions for an early slot to watch this band, who had been on my playlist for the previous week.  Somehow with all our combined musical knowledge and pre-festival research they had kinda passed everyone by until late in the day. I had picked up on them and they had slowly seeped into my gruff and stern Northern soul (that’s the mystical one rather than the pill fuelled dance one), until I was hooked enough to say, “That’s the first band I want to see this weekend!”.  We, unanimously, gave them the big thumbs up when we walked away, grinning and heartened, their sweet vocals and Indie-country sounds guaranteed to melt any icy exterior. Without a doubt I was going to be here tonight to see how they came over in a small club environment.

Originally a solo musical project by Katie Crutchfield, American singer-songerwriter, it was expanded into a band project involving her twin sister, Alison. Releasing two low budget solo albums then a third album in 2015 on Merge Records this was finally followed by last years less lo-fi and more break through sounding album, “Out Of The Storm”. Shows and tours with Kurt Vile, Sleater Kinney, The New Pornographers and recently the mighty Jawbreaker show the critically acclaimed company under the glow of whose patronage they are lit.

It’s a sell out show tonight with the late comers like us squeezed to the back.  We aren’t so late as the band are early, with it all done and dusted just after 9.30. However, as we take our positions I’m not so worried about what time it will finish, just that I don’t miss a single note.

The opening “Chapel Of Pines”, which I’m led to believe is a cover, is straight from the “Get ‘em on side early” songbook and once she has our hearts in her hand then there is no let up. The band join her for another slow and soulful build up number in “Recite Remorse” and from there the most beautiful and laidback melodies come thick and fast.

It’s the strength of Katie’s voice that stands out among the solid and steady sound of the band.  It is smooth when required and then tears through when required, smooth and warm is the verses and soaring and swooping its way though choruses.  Range and emotion without the vocal and nasal gymnastics that make so many artists cause me to grit my teeth as they try too hard to impress.

Katie’s voice cuts through the simple drum and crunchy distorted guitar of “Misery Over Dispute” like a knife though butter and on the buzzsaw indie sounds of “Silver” her voices drape languidly and whispers yearnings to the listener. A mixture of the smooth Indie rasp of Isobel Monteiro, the country gal cheekiness of Sheryl Crow all wrapped up in the whisper of Margo Timmins.  It’s bliss.

“We’re from another Birmingham” says Katie between songs. “Birmingham two.  Because you’re Birmingham number one!”. We hear it all the time but I think I believe her because I just don’t want her to lie to me. Not with that voice.

The alternative / college rock of “No Question” shows you what a great band they are.  A simple song with simple melodies that will get you bouncing right up until the slowing turntable drawl at the end. I didn’t fall for the fake ending halfway through this time as I did in Portugal though.  Don’t you hate those songs where you start applauding and then they start up again.

We are treated to two more acoustic solo songs as encores. It’s one of those encores where the artist doesn’t leave the stage as “… there’s nowhere to go and then it looks a bit silly coming back”.  The final song is the beautiful “Fade” with lyrics that make your heart bleed. “I poured everything out, and it never would be enough” and the letting go of (false?) love tear-jerk line “I kissed you goodbye and hid for the rest of your life”.

And then they were gone… “fading, fading away” with the coda to that final song.

See Waxahatchee and you’ll be a better person for it. Guaranteed.

Setlist

Chapel of Pines (acoustic and solo)

Recite Remorse

Silver

Poison

Misery Over Dispute

8 Ball

The Dirt

Sparks Fly

Never Been Wrong

Coast To Coast

La Loose (acoustic and solo)

No Question

Peace and Quiet

Under A Rock

Encores (acoustic and solo)

Swan Dive

Fade

 

Reviewer: Mark Veitch

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