Monday, September 16, 2013

Waxahatchee at the Bowery Ballroom

Born in 1989 near Birmingham, Alabama, Allison Crutchfield and Katie Crutchfield are identical twins. The twins started their first rock band, the Ackleys, while in high school. Katie sang lead and played guitar; Allison started on drums and switched to keyboard. The band recorded an album and performed live for three years, until they entered colleges in different cities. The sisters later began a punk band, P. S. Eliot, releasing two albums and two EPs. The twins moved to Brooklyn together for a while, but recently relocated to a three-story row house in West Philadelphia, sharing a house and basement rehearsal space among seven musicians. The twins are now in separate bands, however; Allison is in Swearin’ and Katie is Waxahatchee.

Waxahatchee headlined the Bowery Ballroom tonight, where the guitar-bass-drums trio was the format chosen to exhibit Katie Crutchfield’s story-songs, primarily from Waxahatchee’s two low-key albums, 2012’s American Weekend, and 2013’s Cerulean Salt. She is an indie singer-songwriter, and the rhythm section was there to give her songs a punch where needed. Unlike her sister’s more rocking set, which graced the same stage two weeks ago, Katie’s songs were more sensitive and turbulent. For a 24-year-old singer-songwriter, Katie Crutchfield or Waxahatchee has many lyrical expressions. She sang these reflections with a hopelessly struggling-for-mercy persona, a vocal delivery so sensitive that it sounded like she would break and so unrefined that it could only be classified as indie, not traditional. She often accompanied herself solely with her loudly twanging electric guitar, and even when she used her backing musicians, they did not always play through an entire song. This sparse approach was endearingly novel, bringing in volume and intensity to emphasize the songs’ introductions, bridges and choruses. Caution, please: a close listening can make you feel naked..

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