Katie Crutchfield has come a long way from recording music in her bedroom in Birmingham, Alabama with just an acoustic guitar. After her band P.S. Eliot broke up, Crutchfield released her debut album on Don Giovanni records, “American Weekend.” Two albums later, Waxahatchee performed to a sold-out crowd at the Beat Kitchen on May 8, her second of two sold-out Chicago shows, after performing at the Empty Bottle a day earlier.
The duo Girlpool opened the show with their fun and powerful set. Based out of Los Angeles, Girlpool consists of members Cleo and Harmony, who switch off on bass and guitar and share vocal responsibilities. Their songs sounded simplistic, but not to their detriment. The two members would sing at the same time, while whoever was playing guitar played simply along with the bass; not relying on riffs or other traditional guitar techniques for the most part, but simply strumming. For Girlpool, this method works, especially in accompaniment with both members’ powerful vocals.
In addition to being incredibly musically talented, the friendship between the two members was adorable to witness. They complimented each other throughout the set, and took turns cracking jokes to one another, adding to the fun environment their set created.
When Waxahatchee took the stage, their change and growth was clear. Instead of one woman belting out her songs in front of basements of people involved in the DIY punk scene, Crutchfield is now supported by a backing band when she plays live, which also contains her twin sister, Alison (of Swearin, P.S. Eliot).
The live band complimented the new sound Crutchfield embraces on her most recent album “Ivy Tripp,” released April 7. The additional musicianship gives her music a new, powerful approach, and the songs off of “Ivy Tripp” are more suited to a full band approach. They have even found a good way to take older songs and turn them into songs that sound phenomenal with a full band approach.
In addition to the complementary music that compliments Crutchfield’s haunting lyrics, her voice is tremendously powerful and is able to carry an already outstanding set.
Crutchfield’s lack of communication with the crowd beyond the occassional “thank you,” and the fact that Waxhatchee’s songs are so personal made it feel like the crowd was intruding at points, but her songs aren’t too personal to be unrelatable. This helped to create an even greater connection between the fans and Waxahatchee.
One of the highlights of the show was Waxahatchee’s encore, in which Crutchfield emerged, solo, to a burst of cheers and screams, to perform “Grass Stain.” She finished the show with fan-favorite, “Bathtub,” coming full circle to the beginnings of her solo debut, by herself with an acoustic guitar.
Although she has come so far from the origins of Waxahatchee — her music has been featured on “The Walking Dead,” she opened for Tegan and Sara on their UK tour before heading out an a UK tour of her own and her second album, “Cerulean Salt,” reached number one on the Official Record Store Chart in 2013 — it’s still easy to picture Crutchfield as the same woman who recorded her feelings of loss and heartbreak on her own in a bedroom.