Live In Vancouver (05/02/15)The Biltmore Cabaret - Vancouver, BC
By Bobby Gorman
I’ve never listened to a Waxahatchee song. Never picked up an album, never streamed a track, never heard them on a compilation. Yet, I’ve gone out of my way three times to see Katie Crutchfield play her Waxahatchee songs live – sometimes with a full band and sometimes without.
For a Wachatchee show is far more than just an indie-rock show, they tend to be showcases of underground female-fronted bands which serves as a break from the male-dominated scene we’ve becomes accustomed to. The first show was with her sister’s band in Swearin’, the second time saw her share the stage the angsty, chaotic hardcore styling’s of Perfect Pussy and Saturday night at the Biltmore featured local Vancouverites Knife Pleats and Los Angele’s Girlpool as supporting acts. Acts that – in a way- were the highlights.
Knife Pleats were a bouncy, indie quartet playing with exuberance and joy. Their fifth set ever had them playing to a steadily growing crowd and you could see them savouring every moment. It was refreshing to see a band trying to find themselves, making a few mistakes, but laughing the entire time.
After a fifteen minute change over, Los Angeles dup Girlpool were next up and, to put it bluntly, they stole the show.
A Riotgrrl band for the new millennium, Girlpool were simple but powerful. With just a guitar and bass, Harmony and Cleo performed with intensity and near-choreographed moves. They would normally sing in sync – creating raucous harmonies – but occasionally, like the final verse of Before The World Was Big, broke apart into overlapping dueling vocals parts. No matter what though, there was a spark. It was like Tegan And Sarah or An Horse if they were angry and raw yet the music wasn’t angry. It was hopeful, thought provoking and nostalgic – imbuing restlessness, and individuality with songs about fighting against societal norms, growing up, standing up for yourself and sexism. And, even if you chose to ignore the message behind the music, it didn’t matter because the music was fucking good.
Then came the main event: Waxahatchee in full band form – including Allison Crutchfield on guitar making for a mini PS Elliot reunion. Unabashedly poppy, Waxhatchee began the set with a heavily distorted, synth-led number Breathless. A grunge influenced number, the Crutchfield sisters alternated between that and their indie-pop sound. There were moments of still silence, broken only by Katie’s soothing voice, contrasted against segments of blistering noise bolstered by guitarist Keith Spencer dissonant feedback. The show ebbed and flowed with intensity and then, almost without warning, it was done.
A solo, one-song encore was all that was left for the eager crowd before the house lights came on and the venue turned into its weekly night club.
The hardcore Waxahatchee fans ate it up and for casual fans it was a solid show albeit somewhat forgettable. Just like with the Perfect Pussy show before, it seems that it was the opener that really made the show for me.