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The Scarlet & Black

Waxahatchee plays an intimate show at Gardner Lounge

Waxahatchee performed at Grinnell on Wednesday night with tourmates Anna St. Louis and Night Shop, a project by Justin Sullivan. Public domain photo.
Waxahatchee performed at Grinnell on Wednesday night with tourmates Anna St. Louis and Night Shop, a project by Justin Sullivan. Public domain photo.

By Chloe Wray

“Mississippi, I’m alone in the alley / What am I supposed to be fighting for? / If you build yourself up tall you can tell me what the future holds / Will you settle where you stand or keep it to yourself?”

The lyrics to “Chapel of Pines,” released as a single in July, resounded throughout Gardner Lounge on Thursday, Sept. 19, as Katie Crutchfield took the stage under the banner of her solo project Waxahatchee.

“Chapel of Pines” appears on Crutchfield’s latest release, an EP entitled Great Thunder. Written in 2012 under a now inactive project by the same name as the EP, the songs on Great Thunder were reimagined and then recorded in December 2017.

Over the years Crutchfield has interspersed the piano-heavy ballads of Great Thunder throughout sets. Despite this, the songs off the EP are still relatively new to fans and they were played alongside band-backed, guitar centered verses familiar to audiences of previous albums.

A theme of duality echoed throughout the evening, beginning with sentiments shared by Crutchfield in an interview before the show.

For Crutchfield, this three-week tour has been a revue of sorts. The tour has been a low-pressure platform for Crutchfield to play Great Thunder, with many of the performances filling old theaters and churches. Anna St. Louis and Justin Sullivan, opening with their solo sets, have come back to the stage each night of the tour as the backing band to Waxahatchee, a convenient and intimate framing for the show.

After the tour stops in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Sept. 20, and Lawrence, Kansas, on following next day, Crutchfield will take a week-long break before joining Courtney Barnett in Denver for the beginning of a month long run.

As for this tour with St. Louis and Sullivan, Crutchfield said, “It’s nice to have two people who don’t sound exactly alike, and they don’t sound just like me. … They’re on different ends of the spectrum that I like to be on — it’s kind of like two different shades of a thing that I like to put forth.”

Reflecting on her own work, Crutchfield expressed a difficulty in being objective about her music. Patterns in the themes presented in her music are easier to notice in hindsight, observed Crutchfield, noting that it is difficult to consciously work patterns into her work during the process of song-writing. Rather, she prefers to let the writing process occur naturally, especially when it comes to trying to include her southern roots into her music.

Originally from Alabama, Waxahatchee being the name of a creek close to where she grew up, Crutchfield used to oppose the narrative some fans and critics put forth which focused on her music as that of someone from the South. Over time she came to realize how integral those sounds, and vivid descriptions of place, were to her music and how much of it came from Alabama. Now with her continued songwriting and the release of Great Thunder, a reminder of the music she started this project with, Crutchfield lets reflection point out influences in her music but is content to go with the songwriting process, wherever it takes her.

“I think there’s always been an apparent need, or a gravitation towards marrying really beautiful melodies with sad, intense, personal lyrics and that juxtaposition is like the voice that I’ve found,” Crutchfield said, speaking to the contradictions which have remained central to the evolution of her music, which she sees as a progression without a clear trajectory. “I think that those two things are sort of in a natural conflict with one another and that natural conflict is where I like to stay.”

In the second-to-last song of the night, Crutchfield’s voice was joined by that friend and collaborator, singer-songwriter Kevin Morby.

Crutchfield also spoke on the “Chapel of Pines” music video. Directed by Christopher Good, the video was filmed on a farm outside of Kansas City to the tune of a dream-like world in which shoots only occurred at sunrise and sunset. “We were all psyched because we knew what we were getting was so cool,” Crutchfield said. The video aimed to achieve a feeling reminiscent of Terrance Malick’s film, Days of Heaven

The evening ended with Crutchfield on her own once more, rounding out her set as she started it, alone on stage as Waxahatchee.

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