SXSW 2018: Waxahatchee Plays New Songs For Rachael Ray

Less than a decade ago, Katie Crutchfield was performing at punk houses as part of P.S. Eliot, and now she’s out here playing for celebrity chef Rachael Ray. Her upward career trajectory has been marvelous to behold, and it’s a testament to just how versatile and strong her songwriting is that it works in any context. Just last week, she was opening for Jawbreaker with the full force of her live band, and right before that she did a solo tour through the South.

And yesterday, on St. Patrick’s Day (she wore green for the occasion), Waxahatchee performed alone at Ray’s 11th annual Feedback event, taking the stage just after Ray’s husband’s band the Cringe ended a loud rock ‘n’ roll set. Crutchfield has grown into such a great performer, with a commanding and calming stage presence that felt unaffected by the long lines for free food and beer that snaked their way through the Stubb’s BBQ backyard space.

She took advantage of an unfamiliar audience to play mostly new material, switching between acoustic guitar and a Nord keyboard, the magnetic pull of her voice and storytelling more than enough to fill the space. She performed her cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Greenville,” and played some of her own tracks, including an old Great Thunder song and Ivy Tripp highlight “La Loose.”

But the highlights were the newer songs, which are dusty and methodical and sound great. The first one she played, on guitar, is a straight-up love song, filtered through the Crutchfield’s always-questioning lens: “My mind turns to something useless and trite/ My uneasiness materialize/ I want you all the time,” she sings. “I’ll love you ’til the day I die,” she repeats at the end. Most of the new ones were on the piano, though, including a stunner that I’ll assume is called “Take It Out,” considering its chorus consists of her increasingly passionate demands to “take it out, take it out, take it out on me, baby.” It’s clear that Crutchfield’s pinprick emotional specificity isn’t going anywhere, and is only getting stronger with time.