Girlpool | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Ivy Trippin’: Learning life lessons from Waxahatchee at Union Transfer
There’s something extremely powerful in surrender. Something about finding oneself in the losing of self. There’s a track on the new Waxahatchee record called “<” where Kate Crutchfield just repeats “you’re less than me. I am nothing.” Anger and rage and force have their moments and places, but in having the restraint to put that all aside there’s a strength that few find. Reductionism can destroys enemies without ever having to raise a hand. At the Ivy Tripp record release show at Union Transfer on Wednesday night, the crowd sat in silence at the feet of Master Crutchfield.
Fans arriving early were treated to an excellent set from LA-to-Philly transplant duo Girlpool, one of our favorite bands that The Key has stumbled upon in recent months. After seeing them at the end of last year in a West Philly basement, I was really excited to see them on this bill with Waxahatchee—and also really interested to see how their live game would translate to a much bigger room. Luckily, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad are already working with a sound that’s much bigger than anything that a guitar and bass should be able to put out. That’s lyrically and sonically. Swelling, slow-burning songs that sometimes never amount to anything more than the simple bass and guitar lines, subverting both musical norms and the patriarchy. Tucker and Tividad are getting a lot of headlines, lately—and deservedly so. Whether you already saw them in a basement, or just saw a picture of Bill Murray enjoying one their SXSW shows, they’re your new favorite band that you’ve never heard of.
When The Goodbye Party hit the stage, shortly after Girlpool’s blistering half-hour set, I thought everyone in the band looked familiar, but strangely out-of-place. That’s because in order to create a touring lineup, Goodbye Party’s Michael Cantor pretty much assembles the Avengers of the West Philly scene. By their music-playing superpowers combined, The Goodbye Party is nigh unstoppable. On bass, Sam from Radiator Hospital; on drums, Joey Doubek of up-and-coming ragers Pinkwash; and on dueling guitars, Chrissy Tashjian of Thin Lips and Kyle Gilbride from Crutchfield sister-band Swearin’. Even though The Goodbye Party might not be their primary project, the set was tight-knit and a hell of a good time.
“Breathless” is the way Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee found their new hometown crowd—the opening track of new album Ivy Tripp providing an appropriately crawling start to the set. The smiles on the faces of the people around me said it all, as they whispered the words of the haunting song. Through the rest of the set, the audience stayed pretty much just as attentive and reverent—no mischief here to quell, only smiles.
Sonically, the full-band approach that the night took had its ups and downs. While Ivy Tripp on the whole mostly lends itself to a bigger sound, there are songs that definitely got the short end of the stick. While I loved the bouncy way that “La Loose” comes across at a show (on record it’s one of my least favorite cuts), some of the older cuts from Cerulean Salt and American Weekend in the middle of the set didn’t get their due reverence, in my opinion.
Not much for crowd interaction, Crutchfield and her band—including sister Allison, of the aforementioned Swearin’—kept it simple, letting the heart-punching songs do all the talking necessary. The songwriting is simple, disarmingly so. But maybe that’s what’s so effective and relatable about Waxahatchee and their shows. Never having seen them play live before, I wasn’t sure what to expect—except for the honesty. And really, regardless of whether you’ve been with them since American Weekend or arriving with Cerulean Salt like I did, it doesn’t make a difference. Sincerity is still the goal, whether the sound or the venue changes or stays the same.
From “Breathless” to “Bathtub,” Waxahatchee proved to be a consistent winner through subversion. I walked back to my where my bike was parked, basking in the enlightenment that Crutchfield let the audience glimpse that night—except my bike was no longer there. I yelled and did a bit of swearin’, then mellowed out, remembering the lesson that I’d just learned: there’s still great strength in pain, and the lessening of self.