I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing “*insert any activity* is back!! ” by now… but boy oh boy does it feel good to type First Ave is back, baby!!
A lot has changed since the last time I had the pleasure of attending a show in the Mainroom, but damn did that familiar purple-red haze envelope me like the arms of a grungy, old friend.
These days, due to my old age, the pressure of attending back-to-back, near-sold-out shows felt…impending? But standing in line I felt that familiar energy surge and my spirit was quickly reinforced.
I would have been looking forward to a trip to First Ave for any reason, but Sunday evening’s Waxahatchee show couldn’t have kept me away.
I firmly believe in honesty, so I’ll be frank when I say I had not yet heard of Katy Kirby before this went up on the schedule, so there were literally no expectations upon arrival. I’ll also include I like to be surprised and generally, my research skills could improve. Yet even my non-existent expectations for the Texas-based singer-songwriter were greatly exceeded by the crystalline vocals I was met with while finding a spot to enjoy the show.
As they ripped through some of the tracks off their 2021 release Cool Dry Place, the soft melodies wrapped around every member of the crowd in a sweet, subtly twangy cocoon. The contrast of the light, dreamy sounds mixed with deep and longing lyrics was simply exquisite and a perfect ice breaker for a night of indie country pop-infused delight.
After last night’s show, Kirby will definitely be on my radar and I look forward to catching the performance the next time they make their way through town.
Now, Waxahatchee has been on my list since I heard a demo version of “Hear You” following the release of Out in the Storm in 2017. Though they have been creating lovely fall weather ballads for years, the newest album, Saint Cloud, is a pandemic favorite for many.
Released just before everything went to shit, it was fantastic to finally hear these songs performed live. The anticipation hanging heavy in the room proved I wasn’t the only one leaning on Katie Crutchfield’s artfully crafted, mouthful lyrics in quarantine, either.
As the screen rolled up, I remember glancing at the stage and getting “big 80s Dolly Parton / Little House on the Prairie” vibes. I’m an absolute sucker for a good stage composition, and the mic stands wrapped in red flowers just felt very thoughtful to me.
Before I knew it, Crutchfield and company had quickly rolled right through four tracks from the new album without a single word, sharing only booming drumbeats and permeating vocals.
It’s always fun to see a band that knows what they’re doing. The ensemble backing Crutchfield pumps out pretty indie country-punk sounds like a well-oiled machine. Not much time was wasted chatting with the audience or among those on stage; they knew what we came for.
While they played a ton of new stuff during their hour set, a few earlier hits like “La Loose” and “Recite Remorse” were thrown in, as well as a cover of the Bonny Doon song “Long Wave” which was very well-received.
As the intro to “Lilacs” ramped up, the crowd quite literally went wild… well, at least as wild as I’ve ever seen this often denim-clad niche of the Minneapolis music scene, I should say. But wild nonetheless! I literally saw fist-pumping at one point!
A similar feeling of eager anticipation hushed the crowd before they finished the set with “Fire.” And to top off this delightful Sunday evening, Waxahatchee returned to the stage for a very appropriate encore cover of Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” which again sent the crowd into a frenzy.
I also quickly want to shout out everyone in attendance last night, especially the always incredible First Avenue staff.
Before arriving, First Ave announced that masks would be required for everyone, and while I’m sure we are all absolutely sick of wearing them, it was extremely comforting to see that everyone was following the rules!
I saw zero (!) incidents of people fighting over it and everyone kept them on while enjoying both performances. So again, while I did sweat more last night than any show I’ve seen there before, it was good to see that everyone else wants to achieve normalcy again. If it takes wearing a mask for a few more shows, it is most definitely worth it.
All in all, it was a great Sunday night back at the Mainroom.