Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Waxahatchee & Radiator Hospital - Old St Pancras Church, London 26/01/15

28 January 2015, 09:00 | Written by James Appleyard

Somewhere under London’s Old St Pancras church runs an ancient river. It flows silently beneath the feet of everyone who steps foot across the building’s timeworn threshold amongst the atmospheric iconography adorning the walls. And it’s this element of silent and perpetual flow that made the venue an apt choice for showcasing Katie Crutchfield’s long standing solo project Waxahatchee, the moniker itself taken from an ancient expanse of water she used to visit in Alabama. Waxahatchee is well established as a vehicle for Crutchfield to exorcise her emotional demons through direct and, at times, brutally honest songs, but tonight’s show saw the usual accompaniment of bass and drums stripped away in favour of a solo Crutchfield brandishing only her guitar and distinctive voice. It was clear from the outset it was going to be an emotional ride.

But the night began with a stellar warm-up in the form of Sam Cook-Parott, who goes by the name Radiator Hospital. He casually strolled onto the altar steps and shyly said “Hi” mentioning he was going to play a couple of songs. But beneath the understated introduction lay a colossal voice as he stood in front of the slightly startled crowd performing without any amplification at all. The fact was, he simply didn’t need any. His near-falsetto vocals projected into the room, telling stories of relationships gone bad like a slightly gruff Conor Oberst. “The last time I played this song I fucked it up”, he said before launching into “Cut Your Bangs”, delivered with the sardonically witty lyrics “You say you’ll cut your bangs / I’m calling your bluff / when you lie to me / it’s in the small stuff”. He needn’t have worried. The song came across flawlessly.

The congregation steadily grew to capacity and waited in anticipation in front of the empty altar before Waxahatchee demurely appeared and picked up her baby blue guitar. The fact that this was the second show she’d played that evening, the first one being billed as a ‘matinee’ but actually happening at 7pm, didn’t seem to matter. Waxahatchee’s opening stride into “Catfish” was as fresh as anyone could have wanted. Segueing seamlessly into another early song, “Grass Stain”, the delicate guitar notes rang up into the vaulted ceiling, Crutchfield’s vocals as crisp as the late evening frost slowly forming outside.

As tonight’s show was a solo outing, it was perhaps predicable that the majority of the set would be taken from her first album American Weekend, a collection of songs infamously laid down straight onto an eight track recorder through a single mic with only Crutchfield and a guitar. So it was good to hear re-worked versions of Cerulean Salt’s “Peace and Quiet” and “Blue Pt II”. With the fuzzed up guitars and drum trills so prevalent on her second album banished, the weight of the words were amplified by the shimmer of candlelight against the golden icons as Crutchfield delivered the songs with unflinching rawness.

But the night was also a chance for Crutchfield to road test some new material from her forthcoming third album Ivy Tripp. Assisted by her twin sister Allison, who bolstered the new songs with light harmonies, the middle of the set saw a run of new tracks. Not least the piano led “Blue” which circled around a simple but affecting refrain underpinning a tale of lost love, as well as the effervescently catchy “Under A Rock” which had a riff that could have been taken straight out of a vintage Pixies track, all delivered with unabashed and flooring honesty.

Crutchfield finished off the evening with a pitch perfect version of American Weekend’s “I Think I Love You” before strolling off stage. The enlivened crowd ensured an encore was inevitable and Crutchfield was happy to oblige with “Noccalula”, the closing track from her debut album, and a fittingly emotive close to the evening.

The the skeletal, striped down version of Waxahatchee on show tonight served to emphasise the fact that, when it comes down to it, Crutchfield’s songwriting is all about direct storytelling. However heartbreaking those stories may be.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next