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Live Concert Review

Waxahatchee / Girlpool / Knife Pleats

Live In Vancouver (05/02/15)

The Biltmore Cabaret - Vancouver, BC
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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. 

Live Concert Review

Waxahatchee / Perfect Pussy / Potty Mouth

Live in Vancouver (05/23/14)

Biltmore Cabaret
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Despite never hearing a single recorded Waxahatchee song (something I will soon remedy), the thought of them will always fill me with fond memories.  The first time I saw them live, I went on a whim based on recommendations from a friend and their love for Swearin’. They did not disapoint.

When they announced their return to Vancouver last weekend, it became a scheduled plan as opposed to a whim and once again, the indie pop outfit front by former PS Eliot singer songwriter Katie Crutchfield created a night to remember.

Arriving too late to witness local openers Needs, the night began with Northampton, MA’s Potty Mouth already barreling through their set. The all girl four piece channeled the grunge and alternative explosion of the early nineties, merged with some pop-punk sensbilities of the UK 77 style. A shoe gazing sound that somehow still popped with energy, pushed forward by an occasional change in vocal duties, Potty Mouth laid the foundation for what was to come.

Next came Perfect Pussy, who has been garnering widespread attention for their raucaus live show. They quietly set up as more and more people wandered nearer the stage. Without warning, the guitars squealed into gear and exploded through the speakers. With unparaelled ferocity, the noise/hardcore band blasted through twenty-some minutes of non stop music. Front woman Meredith Graves screamed towards the crowd with a raw pasionate voice that gave creedence to her Black Flag neck tattoo proud. A mixture of Bikini Kill and Siouxisie and the Banshees, Perfect Pussy’s music stands next to the first time you heard X-Rey Spex, only with a harsher, more vicious sound.

The crowd responded in kind and kicked up a storm as Graves’ veins popped from her neck with each throaty scream. She sounded spot on when she hit the microphone, but sadly some of her spastic movements left the microphone too far out of reach, drowing her out in a cacophony of guitars, keys and distortion.

Despite the loss of vocal recognition, Perfect Pussy’s performance was once that leaves you shaking in excitement, unsure of what you just saw but fully comprehending it was something truly magical.

Then came Waxahatchee, the final set of the night.

Crutchfield began the set with a brief solo performance of two or three songs before the rest of the band stepped up to join her. A stark contrast from Perfect Pussy, Waxahatchee slowed it down, with soft strumming and soaring vocals. Instead of circle pits and fist pumps, the crowd ebbed and flowed (and some just lowdly talked). Poetic lyrics soared over sparse melodies and other than thanking all the opening acts, Crutchfield avoided pointless banter between songs.

It was a reminder of how diverse a show can be, with Waxahatchee and Perfect Pussy sitting on difference sides of the sonic spectrum, Potty Mouth falling somewhere in between and it all making sense on one compact bill.

So while their performance wasn’t quite as memorable as their last apperance at the Biltmore, it still served as a pleasant live music experience. Throw in the two powerful opening acts, Waxahatchee crafted a tour that deserves recognition and shows that women can destroy it on stage as much as guys – and you can be damn sure I’ll be there when they’re next in town again.