Katie Crutchfield has been performing under the current moniker of Waxahatchee for several years now and her dizzying outpouring of musical emotions have been presented over three albums that have placed her very firmly on the musical radars of the fine people of Manchester it seems. By the time she saunters on to the low stage of The Ruby Lounge, located right in the centre of the city, the crowd has grown considerably creating a wonderfully anticipatory buzz as she launches into Under a Rock, from her most recent record Ivy Tripp.
Prior to this, the early arrivers were able to experience a blistering set from support Pinkwash that has much to commend it. The band feature Waxahatchee drummer Ashley Arnwine along with Joey Doubek on vocals. Together, they create a snarling, sonic onslaught built around frantic power chords, pulverising and relentless in their design, along with primal vocals which take encouragement from a truly bone-shaking drumming performance that is staggering to behold. Watching the duo’s sheer determination to generate such a savage aural experience proves to be a mesmerising experience and although it has not converted this listener to the delights of post-sludge punk just yet, it is certainly good for the soul to see such forceful, kinetic energy manifest itself in this manner.
Katie Crutchfield is accompanied on stage by her twin sister Allison on guitar, along with Ashley on drums, Katherine Simonetti on bass and Keith Spencer on rhythm guitar. Katie and Allison perhaps unsurprisingly share a long-standing musical relationship. The siblings were born in 1989 and Under a Rock instantly establishes the prevailing notion that the nineties are an important musical era for the pair. The opening strains of the song prove to be incredibly reminiscent of the Oasis track Live Forever and whilst I have no doubt that this is not intentional – the themes inherent within Crutchfield’s material are miles away from the Gallagher’s – it does work to establish the importance of this period as the most significant musical era informing much of Waxahatchee’s output. Misery Over Dispute ensures that this impression continues. Genuine in it’s delivery and simple in it’s performance the song appears to capture an exposed moment of confession but no sooner have it’s themes been declared and it’s gone in a haze of lo-fi fuzziness.
Katie does not hang about and Waiting and The Dirt provide further examples of her confessional lyricism, delivered in such an economical fashion that is actually quite refreshing as the temperature in the basement venue starts to rise. Indeed, there is nothing flash about the performance tonight, which in some ways is very reminiscent of Sharon Van Etten, who recently proclaimed in Manchester that many of her songs were actually very similar from a musical perspective. The important aspect of each composition however are the stories inherent within them and this is most definitely the case with Katie Crutchfield’s material. It is this aspect of the performance tonight which sets apart this quite mesmerising show so far. Lively provides a lovely change of pace and tone, offering a platform to really appreciate the vocals, which appear firm yet provocative.
Poison somehow manages to enhance the nostalgic qualities of the evening by bringing to mind Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites amongst many other films from this decade that were built around the sensitive tones and sensibilities of the lo-fi grunge era.
The final third of the evening proves to be the most satisfying as Katie and co. embark on a selection of songs possessing a delightful range of characteristics ranging from the catchy La Loose to the elegiac Bonfire. It is at this stage of proceedings that the band depart and Katie returns moments later for a solo encore that provides some sublime moments of introspection. It is a hushed affair and the audience listen intently, hypnotised and after the extended applause, the brief hope of a further encore ripples around the room but dissipates as the lights shatter the briefly claustrophobic illusion Katie Crutchfield has cast.
This was a great gig. It was dark at times and it prompted intense feelings of nostalgia. It may have been a short gig, but maybe songs this hypnotic are only supposed to be consumed in small doses.
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Review by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto