Waxahatchee | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotography.com
We’re All In This Together: Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff play an empowering set at Union Transfer
Co-headlining shows can be a tricky business. For the audience, it adds an air of mystery and unpredictability — who will go on first? How long will each set be? A good deal of planning has to go into it on the artists’ end, too — how do they settle it? Perhaps a coin toss?
For Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff, though, none of these questions seemed to be an issue. Some quick sleuthing seems to indicate that the two headliners, currently on tour together, have been alternating the order they play each night. That way everything’s perfectly fair and amicable — as the stage backdrop that framed the powerhouse acts read, “We’re All in This Together.”
This worked out just fine for last night’s Union Transfer audience, who was equally excited to welcome back hometown hero Waxahatchee and XPN Fest alum Hurray for the Riff Raff.
But before either headliner took the stage, those who were smart enough to arrive early were treated to the soft and ethereal folk tunes of #NPRSlingshot artist Bedouine. Azniv Korkejian appeared onstage with just an acoustic guitar and an electric candle but effortlessly filled the room with soothing songs. The artist made a classic opening-act joke, thanking everyone for listening to songs they’ve never heard, but was pleasantly surprised to find that much of the audience actually was already familiar with her music.
In a swift sonic turn, an energetic hour-long set from Hurray for the Riff followed, filled largely with songs from their year-old album The Navigator. Alynda Segarra is not one to be underestimated — the artist’s presence is immediately commanding, with sharp vocals, arresting lyrics, and a “Power to the People” shirt (which is actually the band’s own merch item, and yes I absolutely did buy it after the show). HFTRR opened with Navigator‘s title track and the invigorating “Live to Save,” and the set steadily intensified.
Segarra wouldn’t want you to mistake her music for anything but political, but the heavy subject matter covered in songs like “Pa’lante,” “Rican Beach,” and a compelling new one called “Kids Who’ll Die” didn’t stop the band’s set from turning into an inspiring, empowering dance party. When Segarra introduced Navigator standout song “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl,” she dedicated it to the “divine feminine energy that can’t be destroyed,” and the NYC native further captivated the crowd with an electrifying rendition of “Living in the City” before ending the set, delightfully, with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”
It was almost bittersweet when Waxahatchee came onstage for their first Philly set since they stopped calling the city home. Sisters Katie and Allison Crutchfield lived here for a number of years, and Waxahatchee is one of the Philly scene’s bigger breakout acts, so I think it’s fair to say that we’ll always consider them a little bit our own. And according to Katie, the city still holds a special place in her heart — she’s written countless songs and recorded a few albums here, including last year’s Out in the Storm.
In the project’s duration, Katie Crutchfield has taken Waxahatchee from a sparse, acoustic solo act to the pure rock ‘n’ roll outfit it is now. But even with a full-band set, Crutchfield made sure to cover the spectrum of her discography, from soft, delicate sadness of her solo gems like “La Loose” and “A Little More” to the raw and gritty rock anthems like “Never Been Wrong” and “No Question” that are fueled by the songwriter’s articulate anger and newfound sense of power. A welcome addition to the band’s 19-song set was Cerulean Salt favorite “Swan Dive,” otherwise known as “the song that makes me cry every time.” Even with the show running late, no one was ready to see Crutchfield go — she obliged with a solo encore that included a cover of Kevin Morby’s “Downtown Lights” and two new songs that hint that Waxahatchee may be back sooner rather than later. That would be fine with us.