The indie band Waxahatchee rode the looming rain-storm out and still played a highly anticipated free show at Central Park’s Summerstage on Wednesday night. They brought out a show that burned so bright it heated up and dried out the ecstatic fans that braved the early showers to come and rock out. Waxahatchee is the brainchild of singer and songwriter Katie Crutchfield, and back in 2020 she released the fifth album under that name with an amazing ode to sobriety called Saint Cloud, a masterpiece that quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year. The disc was an intense exploration of grief, loneliness, and redemption that helped me (and many others) get through the brutal isolation and crushing anxiety of the pandemic lockdown. The album’s release timing was unintentional as it was largely recorded before the COVID virus took over all of our lives. That quarantine world that resulted greatly interrupted Crutchfield’s celebration and promotion of that release. She attempted to tour in support of it multiple times, only to have to cancel and postpone her tour multiple times, and she instead resorting to a series of solo live streams to help keep us fans happy. Since then, she has been able to play NYC multiple times since the pandemic, but she was extremely glad to be here for this show in particular, and we eventually found out why, as the show which ended with a surprise reunion with her sister Allison Crutchfield.
Opening the night was a Chicago band OHMME, who rocked out hard despite a misty rain that threatened to dampen the atmosphere through the early parts of their scorching set. The band is centered around the impressively rockin’ duo of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, who have a bewitching vocal connection that felt at times almost mystical. Their undulating harmonies reminded me of classic female vocal pairings like Heart, Veruca Salt, and The Breeders, but they seemed to hook you in with those gorgeous harmonics, then crush you with some wildly improvisational jams that at points reminded me of Sonic Youth’s experimental freak-outs. Matt Carroll rounded out the trio on drums and really helped tie their whole sound together that often threatened to rocket off the rails, but the songs always some together, and I was spellbound throughout. They even covered the great Kate Bush during their set, aptly playing the timeless song “Cloudbusting” in time to chase away the rain, and they even addressed Bush’s recent resurgent success, saying they’ve been huge fans for years and not just since “Running Up The Hill” shot up in the charts after being showcased on a recent episode of Stranger Things, but I’m glad they didn’t play that song, as this one much more suited their enchanting vocal ways. Their last album Fantasize Your Ghost from 2020 was really fantastic, and I look forward to hearing more from them again soon.
The Philly-based band Swearin’ played next, and it was especially fitting as it is a group fronted by Katie’s twin sister Allison Crutchfield, although this project definitely had a more alt-rock edge than her sister’s more country-leaning sound. This set was particularly extraordinary night as Swearin’ has not been playing with Waxahatchee on this tour so far, and they have only played a couple shows so far this year, so this night was a rare chance to see these two amazing talents embrace in reunited sisterly love. This show was also is a 10th anniversary of the band’s formation, which made it even more exceptional event to their fans, as she reunited with her co-lead singer vocalist and guitarist Kyle Gilbride, drummer Jeff Bolt, and bassist Amanda Bartley. Swearin’ started back in 2012, shortly after the band she had with her sister called P.S. Eliot broke up, and they released their first self-titled album that same year, but the band broke up not to much longer after that in 2015, and Allison then went solo, only to re-unite with her palls again in 2018. She said during the show that it was great to be playing together again, and “We started right here in NYC 10 years ago when we recorded our first album here, and we’ll be playing a lot of that here tonight.” They did very well play darn near that whole album, as well as several off their most recent 2018 disc Fall Into The Sun, and even some from 2013’s Surfing Strange. It was such a great chance to catch this band again, and I hope they keep it going with even more great songs.
Katie Crutchfield came out for the Waxahatchee set dressed in a puffy pink dress, but by no means was she around to be soft and girly, as she was clearly out to show how much she’s grown as an artist and take no prisoners in the process. Her band’s line-up for this show included Eric Slick on drums, Eliana Athayde on bass and backing vocals, and Bobby Colombo and Bill Lennox on guitars. They did play a majority of her last album Saint Cloud, as the album’s cover was even projected on the screen behind the band through her whole set, which showed that she is still basking in the glow of that truly wonderful newer release. She also contrasted that by unleashing some early rarities she re-recorded back in 2018 on an EP called Great Thunder, which was also the name of the short-lived band she had with original Swearin’ bassist Keith Spencer back in 2012. She also covered a Lucinda Williams song “Fruits of My Labor” as well as Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” For the encore of the night she brought out Allison to unearth another P.S. Eliot’s song “Tennessee.” This brought me some flashbacks of the only other time I saw these two share a stage when they did a one-off P.S. Eliot reunion at the festival for their one-time record label Don Giovanni’s in Asbury Park back in 2016, but I’m so very glad I could re-live that moment again with these two massive musical talents.
Article: Dean Keim