“This is the most fun I’ve had doing this in a while,” said Katie Crutchfield, smiling. “It’s always fun, but…you know.”
The devoted Mainroom crowd took those words to heart last night at First Avenue, since the leader of Waxahatchee isn’t much for stage banter. In a set so fast-paced and powerful that it seemed to be over in the blink of an eye, Crutchfield brought wave upon wave of churning guitars and yearning vocals crashing down.
Eight years and four albums into her career as Waxahatchee, Crutchfield has emerged as one of the most urgent singer-songwriters of her generation. She’s often the first name mentioned in thinkpieces about how brilliant women are now dominating indie rock, and failing to get the attention they deserve. Indeed, last night’s show was maddeningly far from sold out, despite a stacked triple bill that also featured Hurray for the Riff Raff and Bedouine.
With a five-piece band led by three guitars (including Katie Crutchfield’s own, and one played by her also gifted sister, Allison Crutchfield), Waxahatchee played the songs as they were recorded: short, punchy, often devastating. Crutchfield alternated between electric and acoustic, going solo for “La Loose” and amping up for songs including “Never Been Wrong” and “Swan Dive.”
Crutchfield can gut you with a turn of phrase, but lyrics aren’t at the forefront of live show, where they’re hard to make out amid the clamor. What drives her live energy is a sense of momentum, with chords leapfrogging behind her passionate voice in a way that channels not so much the sound but the feeling of Damn-the-Torpedoes-era Tom Petty.
Hurray for the Riff Raff preceded Waxahatchee on stage, frontwoman Alynda Segarra accompanied by a tight four-piece rock band that brought her incisive songwriting skills to the fore. Wearing a jean jacket embroidered with a design of a fist holding the Puerto Rican flag, Segarra introduced set closer “Pa’lante” by saying, “Music is the only way I know to make this world a better f—ing place, because it’s scary times right now.”
Opener Bedouine charmed the crowd with an solo acoustic set of unassuming songs that stick with you, channeling the sincere songcraft of the ’60s folk revival and its later heirs like Nanci Griffith. Performing in low light next to a table holding an electric candle and a goblet of water (a touch of class goes a long way), Azniv Korkejian brought the growing crowd close to the stage without needing to ask. Earlier in the day, she stopped by The Current to record a live session with Mark Wheat.
Hurray for the Riff Raff