Waxahatchee With the Goodbye Party and Mimisku Rubber Gloves, Denton Wednesday, April 22, 2015
There is no better way to see a band. Especially this band, and especially right now. At Rubber Gloves in Denton last night, Waxahatchee -- the vehicle of Philadelphia singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield -- transformed their directionless 20-something diary-poems into anthems worthy of the garage, in front of a fittingly intimate crowd. With the shy grace of someone still growing accustomed to the existence of fervent admirers, Crutchfield answered every instance of applause with a quick "thank you" before launching into another vividly rendered slice of melancholia. On record, you're liable to find yourself worrying about her; in a live setting, every crashing chord and snare drum echo serves as a reminder that heartbreak can be its own life-affirming force.
After signing to Merge Records last December, with two modestly perfect albums already under her belt, Ivy Tripp arrived earlier this month to fanfare that included a glowing New Yorker profile -- none of it unmerited, because Crutchfield's that good. A midway point between her old punkish outfit P.S. Eliot and her aggressively lo-fi/acoustic solo debut American Weekend, 2013's name-maker Cerulean Salt was wound tight enough to squeeze the value out of every second; Ivy Tripp stretches itself wider in terms of stylistic avenues but also in the literature, opening her steadfastly idiosyncratic phrasing up to more impressionistic portraits. Much as I admire her pushing for new horizons, I occasionally miss the previous cohesion.
Jumbled up as they were last night in a setlist built (in the tradition of live shows) to emphasize her more visceral side, it was clear that any differences between the albums are a matter of presentation, not writing. Recent additions I'd found somewhat limited in their recorded incarnations provided the best kind of highlights, receiving a new life outside the constraints of digital media. Live instrumentation on "La Loose" and "
Joined onstage by a group that included her sister (and P.S. Eliot partner) Allison, Katie Crutchfield the performer isn't the lone world-creator found on her albums. She's with the band, who are playing her songs, but in a meaningful sense she still operates solo. She was alone with the music, savoring words and turns of melody, her eyes closed or looking out into the distance above the heads of her audience, her bandmates becoming spectators as much as participants. In between songs, thanking us for our cheers, it was like she'd just remembered we were there. If you've spent much time with her records, it's a familiar feeling.
And then she made her solitude literal, returning for a two-song acoustic encore that surely convinced anybody who wasn't yet sold to find their inner devotee: "Summer of Love," a personal favorite from Ivy Tripp, and "Bathtub," the only cut of the evening pulled from American Weekend, both of which gave a well-deserved spotlight to her lyrics. Loud or soft, alone or with a team, on you or her guitar, she can pull the right strings.
It's doubtful we'll get many chances to see Crutchfield in this kind of setting again, one where you can randomly spot her sipping on a Lone Star 10 feet behind you. (A shout-out is in order too for show promoters Who Loves the Sun, who managed to land the gig in the first place.) With the '70s-era décor and beer-sweaty, no-frills stage area, Rubber Gloves lent a budding icon a workspace that was organic enough for her talent to pull the weight. Waxahatchee didn't need strobe lights or fancy speakers to speak clearly -- we were breathing the same air.
Though it might be overly loose with the definition, you could connect the dots from Waxahatchee's heavier moments to certain acts typically associated with the (semi-real, so-called) "Emo Revival," though refreshingly devoid of the usual gratuitous masculinity. At the very least, emo-leaning groups can serve as effective openers: Denton's own Mimisiku began the proceedings by putting an unexpected smile on my face, owning the stage with the kind of animal intensity you want from a young band who are still pure enough to be enamored with sudden shifts in dynamics. This is the kind of show being routinely taken for granted all across America. No guarantees that their brand of power-chord-emo will translate to something you can take home with you, but maybe it doesn't need to.
After them came the Goodbye Party, another Philadelphia band, who took us a noticeable step closer to the headliner. They've been touring with Crutchfield and co. for most of April (this was their final show together), fronted by a busy pair of fellas best known for their work with other crews: Michael Cantor of The Ambulars and Sam Cook-Parrott from Radiator Hospital, a good friend of the Crutchfield sisters. If the goal of your opener is more about paving the way for the bigger name than putting on a separate show, then they were successful. Judging by the more contemplative portions of their performance, they're likely the opposite of Mimisiku, an outfit built for the recording studio.
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