Up and coming sister bands Waxahatchee and Swearin’ gave us a lovely night this past Wednesday at Capitol Hill’s Chop Suey. It was a short and sweet set that the audience won’t forget any time soon as they swayed and bobbed to the piercing lyrics and layered instruments - loud in the best possible way.
Opening the night was Seattle’s own Dead Bars who started the night out with a dose of 2013 punk that quickly won the crowd over with their catchy hooks. They played a short set, but it was easy to see why they were picked as the opener for Waxahatchee – they had an obvious love of grunge but a desire to synthesize it as their own. Drawing on classic punk influences and mixing it with the modern scene, they gave the audience a friendly and gruff set that successfully left songs like “Funhouse” (their most recent single) stuck in your head as the second act prepared to play. They are playing a show at the Highline on December 13th and then heading out to the east coast. Catch them then, and expect to see more of this energetic rising act in the year 2014.
Swearin’ brought a heavy set, debuting live cuts of their sophomore album Surfing Strange for Seattle in glorious fashion - almost shockingly more fuzzy than the that many of us have been listening to nonstop since thier NPR First Listen spotlight back in October. The quartet is fronted by Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride – both on vocals and guitar. They took turns, sharing the stage with each other and harmonizing when it felt right. Allison on stage right channeled early 90s Kim Deal as she crooned into the microphone stepping forward and back as the music guided her. Gilbride at center stage supplying texture and layers with his unorthodox and graceful guitars interlacing with Crutchfield’s melody. Meanwhile, bassist Keith Spencer and drummer Jeff Bolt provide a paradoxically grungy and clean backbone to Gilbride and Crutchfield’s guitar lead, all encircling heartfelt and intimate vocals, and putting the finishing touch on this great second act of the night.
The Crutchfield sisters have been in bands together before, but their musical preferences were noticeable as ever as Waxahatchee took the stage. Though they come from the same Alabama roots, where Swearin’ veers towards the heavy, Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project veers towards a, well, a softer approach. It was a special treat to hear both acts in one night.
Last time we saw Waxahatchee in Seattle, it was July and it was at the Vera Stage in the middle of the afternoon at Capitol Hill Block Party. Her set then was captivating, and it was easy to see that her music kept hold of the hearts of those of us at CHBP this year. Chop Suey was full of attentive onlookers, waiting for their chance to hear Katie Crutchfield in such a cozy setting. Waxahatchee started out her set with a track from a side project that she’s collaborating on with Kyle Gilbride of Swearin’ called Great Thunder. Then breaking into tracks off her recent release Cerulean Salt, she kept the night warm and lush, despite the sparseness of the arrangements. Crutchfield had fans “oohing” along with the her to “Swan Dive” and chanting the chorus of anthem “Blue Pt. II”. Despite Crutchfield’s quiet stage manner, her music spoke for her and interacted plenty with the crowd.
After a solid 12 song set Crutchfield left for a moment and only to come back without her backing bassist and drummer to play a soft rendition of her track “American Weekend”, off of her album by the same name from 2012. It was the perfect end to the night. Crutchfield’s voice like a gentle kiss goodnight and her guitar softly promised that this is not good-bye, just see you later.
If you haven’t already, stop by your local record store and pick up Waxatchee’s new album Cerulean Salt and the new Swearin’ record Surfing Strange - both are incredible. Also, keep your eye out for the next time either of these acts are in town, because trust me, you don’t want to miss out. Stay tuned to KEXP for live videos of in-studios with Waxahatchee and Swearin’ on the blog soon.