Waxahatchee – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 9, 2015
“We’re almost ready,” said Katie Crutchfield, the real person behind Waxahatchee, having taken the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg last night in support of her new album, Ivy Tripp, her first on Merge Records. Crutchfield opened with “Breathless,” a methodical low-end keyboard progression featuring inscrutable lyrics like “Take what you want/ I’m not trying to be yours/ I’m not trying to have it all.” But even these limited ambitions wilted in the face of Waxahatchee’s very excellent new LP, named after an invented term that Crutchfield says stands for something like indecision, and a sold-out crowd waiting on whatever it was that the 26-year old singer would do. She may well live in half ways, the almost-ready, not-trying-to-have-it-all ideas that color her songs, but on this night, like so much of her recent career, Crutchfield enjoyed complete control and an audience willing to join her in whatever gray spaces she found between things.
Opening her set with “Under a Rock,” the Liz Phair–indebted second track from Ivy Tripp, and “Misery Over Dispute,” from her second LP, Cerulean Salt, Crutchfield transmuted Music Hall back to the mid-’90s. Fans with thick-rimmed glasses and sawed-off bangs nodded along. The set swelled behind “Lips and Limbs,” “Waiting” and “Lively,” all Cerulean Salt songs. Allison Crutchfield, Katie’s sister and bandmate, assisted on guitar and harmonies. The siblings leaned into each other invisibly on “Poison,” “Brother Bryan” and “Blue.” The latter two featured both sisters without an instrument, hands stridently at their sides, fists almost imperceptibly clenching and unclenching. The main set finished with Ivy Tripp’s closer, “Bonfire”—Katie Crutchfield has a thing for endings.
In the encore, she returned with her guitar but without the rest of the band. Someone in the audience yelled, “I love you,” and Crutchfield dryly responded, “You don’t know me.” And yet, in a limited sort of way, the crowd did know her. Her last three songs, “Grass Stain,” “Summer of Love” and “Noccalula” found the singer unadorned, alone, her best and barest self. The lyrics for that final number, the last song off Crutchfield’s first solo LP, American Weekend, rang out: “I’m going to New York/ I’ll be much better there.” When she wrote that, she couldn’t have known there would be hundreds of silent fans, some mouthing this very line, in the confines of the five boroughs. She wasn’t better last night at Music Hall than she would be elsewhere on the Ivy Tripp tour. But she was great in New York, as she said would be. She was ready, and for an hour, she had it all. —Geoff Nelson | @32Feet