Words & Photos by Scott Murry
Similar to an Elliott Smith side project, Waxahatchee‘s first full release began with the 2012 home-recorded American Weekend. It is incredibly raw and personal in its lyrics and recording. Out in the Storm, the band’s fourth full length, was released this summer with the production quality swinging way upward while maintaining intimate introspection. It can be challenging to connect the feelings of a such softly recorded songs with an audience, but Waxahatchee guides the night like a spiritual shaman. “We’re gonna take it down a notch, you seem like you guys can handle that,” lead Katie Crutchfield continued “we did last night and they didn’t like that.” The night prior to this Boston show, she had to callout a face in the crowd for heckling the band in Montreal during a quiet moment. Perhaps it was the disavowing of a Nazi rally in the city earlier that afternoon, but Boston was receptive to the subdued, intimate tracks. Crutchfield noted, “You guys are well behaved and we appreciate that.”
The band carried their economic sound into their stage presence, largely dressed in black and white. Highlights of scarlet red scattered the stage—mixed into the band’s outfits with the primary focus on Katie Crutchfield’s vibrant red dress. This centered stage layout reflects the approach in their music with all parts supporting the mood of the songs.
Playing heavily from their newest album, it’s tough to not compare the band to the Breeders when seeing Katie harmonize with her twin sister Allison on stage. Pushing ached words out with purity of tone, it’s incredible how easy they make it look. Recollections of sleepless nights and self-doubt soar across the venue in tender, powerful vocals. Fans gaze up from the front row with big eyes, enchanted to be repeating the words in person. While the band loops emotive rhythms to emphasize the feeling, it’s clear that sharing the tender cuts wouldn’t be a problem here. Crutchfield decided, as a result, to wrap up the encore with “Under A Rock” after 20 songs, citing, “You’re so well-behaved [we’ll play] a second encore song … that rarely happens.”
Palehound took the stage just before, garnering nearly as much adoration as the headliners. As lead Ellen Kempner sheepishly said, “We’re Palehound, we’re from Boston” cheers exploded in The Sinclair. Drummer Jesse Weiss and bass player Laura Brogan smiled contagiously, getting into the faster songs with kicks and stage cues Brogan admittedly picked up from old Green Day photos. Their album A Place I’ll Always Go was released earlier this year with incredible layers of loss and celebratory self-discovery.
After a fast, upbeat tempo kickoff, Palehound also slows things down a bit for “At Night I’m Alright With You” and “Backseat.” I was personally curious to see how this would work as Kempner’s vocals are often whispered and sound like a private journal. Closing her eyes and leaning into the mic, it appeared that she transported her thoughts outside of the venue to sing. The mood was powerful and fitting to the recording the audience has grown attached to.
Taking the mood up and down, Kempner addressed her hometown with pride. Boston showed up in big numbers to counter-protest a rally of hateful rhetoric set in the city’s Boston Common earlier that day. Applauding fans that had attended the contentious event, she announced, “I’ve never been prouder to live in this city. And tonight 100% of our t-shirt sales are going to Black Lives Matter.” The love in the room emanated throughout and only complemented an already stunning homecoming show.
Baltimore openers Outer Spaces began the night happy to be back in Boston after their last show was cancelled. A trio of keyboard, guitar and drums, their sound had the right balance of composure and grace to welcome people in. Lead Cara Beth Satalino sings gazing upward in an ethereal state. With mellow drums rarely jumping out of line with this sentiment, the kit taps and pace allowed for some proper shoe gazing.