Tickets had been sold out months in advance for this admittedly small show, (I literally had to beg and blag over email to land a ticket) so by 21.20 the back room in Shacklewell Arms was packed and there was a buzz of anticipation for the first UK headline show of Waxahatchee, the solo project of Brooklyn based Katie Cruthfield who mixes folk with DIY post-punk. Prior to Waxahatchee‘s arrival on stage, support came from New Zealand’s Popstrangers who played a 7-song set full of their psych-rock, the highlight being the infectious hooky ‘Heaven’ which managed to get a few head-bobs from an half interested crowd.
Then it was time for the reason we’re all here, arriving on stage looking slightly nervous Katie played the first two tracks solo, Hollow and American Weekend, before the set quickly heated up with the first song with her full band which was the brilliant Coast to Coast. The lo-fi-distorted punk number added by Katie’s unique vocals over the top made it one of the set highlights for me. The appreciation shown after Coast to Coast, made Katie declare to the crowd slightly prematurely “This is better than 90% of the shows back in the US”.
The set wasn’t without surprise as a cover of Bob Dylan’s “knocking on heaven’s door (learnt earlier in sound check) went down like a dream-boat with the crowd who hung on her every word all night.
The special moments in the set were Katie solo alone with her Fender and not collectively with Waxahatchee, demonstrated by the beautiful and emotionally delivered Grass Stain, which got the biggest reaction of the night.
Towards the end of the set Katie declared “We’ve been racking our brains working out how to make a large set for tonight” which meant when screams of encore came, there was very little left in the locker, though Katie did manage to pull out one more track solo.
As the set comes to an end and the crowd disperse, I came across an American lady who declared “this is one of the last times you’ll see Waxahatchee playing venues like Shacklewell Arms” and you know what…I think she’s right.