Waxahatchee at Rough Trade East
Waxahatchee appeared at Rough Trade East on 2nd July to play a free gig that was good overall but ultimately highlighted problems with the band’s music, which lacks impact when performed live.
A fairly standard alternative rock act, Waxahatchee’s sound has a very certain kind of tone that seems to have its roots in earlier times, vaguely reminiscent of what might happen if the Pixies were to be combined with No Doubt but with better lyrics. At their concert, there were some nice shifts between intensity and softness that don’t come across in the recorded versions of the songs. Katie Crutchfield is a talented lyricist with a good voice and this was apparent throughout the show. Songs like Noccalula and American Weekend received a grungy, heavier overhaul, which contributed well to the alternating highs and lows of the overall performance. Arguably those songs benefitted from such tweaks because they clearly energised the room, which is always important for a live audience.
However, the music itself weighed the show down like an anchor. It was overly simplistic, mostly driven by repetitive slamming tom-tom and snare drum rhythms, with incredibly basic guitar and bass lines. Brother Bryan illustrated this perfectly: the lyrical competence and good vocals clashed with an utterly bland background. It really sounded like all the band’s efforts had gone into the words, leaving very little to the music itself. In addition to this, any fans hoping for a “pure” experience might have felt that the heavier live reworking was too significant a departure from the recorded tracks. Continuous melancholy and stage energy is not an easy balance to achieve by any means.
In the end the music let the vocals and the lyrics down – not enough was done with it originally and for that reason it dragged a good thing down into mediocrity. Sadly no amount of live alteration could save this performance, although their attempt to adapt the music did make all the difference. It was an enjoyable show but also served to draw attention to the pre-existing problems with Waxahatchee’s music.
For further information and future events visit Waxahatchee’s website here.
Watch the video for Grass Stain here: