Gig review: Waxahatchee at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Waxahatchee. Picture: Gary Brightbart
Waxahatchee. Picture: Gary Brightbart
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Katie Crutchfield, who trades under the nom de plume Waxahatchee, recently described her breakthrough album Cerulean Salt as a solid and its follow up Ivy Tripp as a gas.

If that’s the case then, based on tonight’s performance, it must be a heavy gas. The Alabama native’s third release may be folk with a hint of grunge but the live arrangements reverse this formula.

It’s a move that’s signposted by her decision to tour with a four-piece backing band, including her twin sister Allison on guitar and backing vocals. The pair previously collaborated in punk-pop outfit P.S. Eliot and there are glimpses of this throughout the twenty-song set, especially on the surprisingly feisty ‘Coast To Coast’ and ‘Waiting’.

The punk influence is nonetheless offset by the bubblegum grunge of Juliana Hatfield’s Hey Babe on ‘Lips And Limbs’ and the dry guitar sound of early Liz Phair on ‘Blue Pt. II’. On ‘La Loose’ she even manages to capture some of the Californian sweetness of Best Coast.

This decision to crank up the fuzz-pop volume is initially hard to reconcile with the more emotionally direct quality of her recorded output but in doing so she succeeds in breathing new life into tracks such as ‘Poison’.

It’s also one that brings out the contrasts in the chorus-free material, be that the sense of restraint within the bass-drum only ‘Brother Bryan’, the heavily sedated feel of set closer ‘Bonfire’, or the more stripped back mid section and encore.

Here the unadorned rolling guitar line on ‘Blue’ has a compelling simplicity and the lyrical self-recrimination of ‘I Think I Love You’ is lent a powerful intimacy by its solo arrangement.

These quieter interludes afford space to fully appreciate her confessional delivery but it’s the louder moments that really leave the audience waxing lyrical.