Live at Brudenell Social Club on Wednesday, 17th June 2015
There are some who stride on stage like preening peacocks, all ego and vanity and there are those who sneak quietly onto almost undetected, fearing their first chords might interrupt the conversations taking place amongst the audience. Alabaman Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, and her band are very much in the latter camp.In fact, so stealthy are they that the opening of the first song comes as something of a (pleasant) surprise to the expectant crowd.
Fortunately though there is nothing tentative about Crutchfield's songs, which are a blend of acoustic lo-fi and grunge rock - a kind of librarian geek update of the nineties Riot Grrrl movement, which is wistfully resigned where bands like Bikini Kill were full of uncompromising anger and frustration.
Here to promote her excellent new album Ivy Tripp, Crutchfield immediately endears herself to the crowd by telling us how much she loves being back at the Brudenell and 'not just because she can see herself in the mirrors'.
And after rattling through the breezily distorted opener there is the hope that tonight will be a memorable mix of great songs and warm, witty and self-deprecating banter but alas this is the last of the conversing. But nevermind because there is a charm built into the bands almost pathologically unprepossessing nature and the songs, that come thick and fast (there is little time to draw breath let alone applaud), are uniformly great even if they never quite hit the explosive heights they often hint at.
There are no duds in tonight's set, although the band (who appear so youthful and sheepish they could have come direct from a high school battle of the bands competition) hit the occasional dodgy note (yet someone this just adds to the charm of the evening), but there are some definite crackers.
Under A Rock is a tremendous piece of grungey pop, featuring an irresistible vocal melody but it is over before it has really begun, whilst Poison is an equally brilliant slice of guitar pop that you could imagine soundtracking a twenty something drama set in the mid-nineties.
New single La Loose, featuring a some pretty vocal harmonies and a deliciously bittersweet melody, forms the centrepiece of the set's midsection slow down and Bonfire is a churning, moody piece of fuzz distortion, juxtaposed with pretty 'woo woo' vocals that builds towards a noisy implosion - and is a fitting way to bring the main set to a conclusion.
But the real joy arrives in the form of the three song encore which sees Crutchfield performing alone with only a guitar for company. It might at first seem slightly perverse to end the evening on a quiet, downbeat night but the crowd is soon won over by the naked honesty and sincerity of the songs and Crutchfield's heartfelt delivery. Rose, 1956 is particularly heart-breaking in its unsparing depiction of a broken relationship, which is made all the more impactful by Crutchfield's intimate yet defiant rendition.
Impressive as the encore is though, as Crutchfield leaves the stage as discreetly as she arrived, you are left with the feeling that, in the round, the singer and her band have turned in a loveable but solid and slightly circumspect show peppered with a handful of moments where the momentum threatens to stall when they had the potential to produce something movingly special.