Waxahatchee // all photos by Cole Whitworth (view set)
The night after the end of this year's Capitol Hill Block Party, Waxahatchee played the Neptune Theater, joined by Cayetana and Snail Mail. This timing dig beg the question of why the Block Party bookers did not snag Crutchfield & co. Either way, the bands played spirited sets, filling the thousand-capacity theater.
Snail Mail led off the bill. Led by the 17, perhaps 18-year-old Lindsey Jordan, Snail Mail's music had an expert dynamic balance which gave space to highlight Jordan's precise vocals. Much has been made in the alt-music press of Jordan's age, and of her music's comparative sense of maturity. Though both these things are true -- Jordan is young, and her music sounds older -- the band's set navigated a great deal of musical terrain in thirty-some minutes. Each of Jordan's songs takes time to build and expand, eschewing easy climaxes in favor of slow-burns. In this respect, one could compare her songwriting to that of Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis. It quickly became clear that Jordan's presence on the DIY scene will not give out anytime soon, to our collective benefit.
Next, Philadelphia's Cayetana played tracks from their recently released sophomore album, titled New Kind of Normal. Though the band may be unfamiliar to the KEXP airwaves, Cayetana proved a tight, loud, and likable live act, lead singer Augusta Koch sincerely thanking the crowd in between intense, growling vocal parts. No disrespect to Koch, who more than holds her own on guitar and vocals, Cayetana boasts a notably good rhythm section, that consists of bassist Allegra Anka and drummer Kelly Olsen. The power of Anka and Olsen gave the set a strong drive, punctuated by Koch's vocals, which contain a distinct, lovely twang.
After a gap, Waxahatchee took the stage. Though ostensibly the hermetic songwriting vehicle of Katie Crutchfield, Waxahatchee expands into a three-guitared live act that boasts both Crutchfield sisters. The band played tracks from each of Katie's past three albums, Cerulean Salt, Ivy Tripp, and the new, acclaimed Out in the Storm, managing to fit in twenty-one tracks. The set started with the gorgeous "Recite Remorse," Katie's voice filling the Neptune, the band providing an ethereal hum behind her images of a collapsing relationship. After this, the set oscillated between new material and old, the band frequently-changing configuration. Some tracks warranted the three-guitar act, providing a massive wall of sound, occasionally muddled in the cavernous Neptune. Others instead were given more sparse instrumentation, Allison Crutchfield's synthesizers and backup vocals beautifully accompanying Katie's central voice.
New tracks "Sparks Fly" and "8 Ball" remained clear highlights of the evening, the latter's bassline bouncing off twin harmonies from the Crutchfields. New favorite "Hear You" and Ivy Tripp's "Air" also sounded particularly good, the blown-out studio recording of "Hear You" transformed into something more fragile and malleable on the live stage. The set proper ended with Cerulean Salt's "Peace and Quiet" rendered newly supermassive, before an encore that included Ivy Tripp highlights "La Loose" and "Under a Rock," and Out in the Storm closer "Fade." "La Loose," in particular, sounded like a lullaby, Katie's softly lilting voice slowing the track to its emotional core. Though the relationships and emotions with which she wrote Ivy Tripp and Out in the Storm have likely faded with time, Katie Crutchfield remains an intelligent, astute performer, highly attuned to the nuances and variations in her sound.