Taking photographs of a live music show is hard. Taking notes to review a show while photographing it is harder. Taking notes to review a show, while photographing it, pushed up against the front of the stage, with no room to move around and get angles because there is no photo pit is an art. This is my account of the Waxahatchee/Sleater-Kinney show at the Cleveland House of Blues on December 9, 2015.
Donning a John & Yoko pin, just a day after the 35th anniversary of Lennon’s murder, Waxahatchee frontwoman Katie Crutchfield stepped lightly up to the center mic and began playing the first chords to “Under a Rock” off of 2015’s Ivy Tripp. The rest of the band followed, specifically drummer Ashley Arnwine, who filled the House of Blues with her dynamic hard-hitting beats. Within minutes, Arnwine’s hair became soaked with her own sweat as she put all of her energy and carried the band older songs off of 2013’s Cerulean Salt including “Lively” and “Misery Over Dispute”.
Birthday girl and bassist Katherine Simonetti paid diligent attention to her string plucking, taking short pauses from her playing to search for cues from Crutchfield. Swaying beside Simonetti was guitarist Keith Spencer. Allison Crutchfield, on stage right, used her twin vibes for cues, often strumming in her own little world, only to turn and face her sister, Allison Crutchfield when the melodies intensified.
Having seen Waxahatchee perform live several times this year, they had never attempted a cover. For this show, Katie Crutchfield did her best rendition of country great Lucinda Williams’ “I Lost It”. Although the Williams song matched Waxahatchee’s measured aura, the band would have been better off without it, as I felt Waxahatchee had so much more content to choose from.
During the remainder of their performance, Waxahatchee peppered their set with more songs off of Ivy Tripp and Cerulean Salt, but also pulling one throwback song from 2012’s American Weekend, “Grass Stain.” Songs including “<” and “Lips and Limbs” elicited soft applause that didn’t dare rip through the ethereal calm that emanated from the stage. During “Peace and Quiet,” Crutchfield gave up her guitar to focus on her vocals. As she crinkled her forehead in concentration, her words dripped off the mic, Crutchfield stood tall, in her iconic solo pose; arms taut at her sides with wrists and hands parallel to the floor. The set ended with “Bonfire,” which is also the last song off their latest album.
While I was disappointed Waxahatchee didn’t include “La Loose” in their 15 song setlist, the most disheartening part of Waxahatchee’s performance was the presence, or lack of presence, of people in the crowd. When it was first announced that Sleater-Kinney was coming to Cleveland, and bringing along Waxahatchee to the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium, I thought the show was a sure sell out (like it was in many other cities during this tour). However, with meager sales, the show was moved to the House of Blues to fill more space. When time came closer for Sleater-Kinney to take the stage, the audience packed it in a little more, but for being the artist behind one of the more revered albums of the year, Katie Crutchfield, and Waxahatchee, deserved better.
More Pics of the Show in the Slideshow Below: