Coping with crisis After over a year without live performances, playing livestreamed performances is probably getting a bit old for both artists and concertgoers alike. In her intimate and frank set for Duke Performances, Katie Crutchfield, known by her stage name Waxahatchee, admitted her yearning for live audiences. This frustration is certainly shared by all, but the indie singer-songwriter gave a performance that in some ways would not be possible without the livestream format. Solo in her home studio, surrounded by various keyboards and instruments, Waxahatchee performed a stripped back, cathartic set, playing mostly tracks from her 2020 album Saint Cloud, with a few older tunes interspersed. The showcase of her introspective, poetic lyrics was far and beyond the most unique thing about this performance format. Waxahatchee’s songwriting is both blazingly honest and abstract, and the lyrics demand a second thought to fully parse their meaning (another pro for this concert format – you can easily read the lyrics while you watch).

Waxahatchee opened with “Chapel of Pines,” from the 2018 EP Great Thunder: a song full of questions, namely “will I go?”. The chords are relatively simple, but Crutchfield’s voice flits between head and chest ranges and adds plenty of nuance to the guitar strums.

By the end of the performance, Waxahatchee had played nearly all of the tracks from Saint Cloud, forming a clear portrait of a woman redefining her wants and needs, and even redefining her relationship with herself. Written through Waxahatchee’s journey of achieving sobriety, the album is also regarded as a “reclaiming” of the Alabama native’s Southern identity, since it contains more folk Americana stylings than her previous music. Thus, the songs lent themselves well to this acoustic guitar-only performance.

“Oxbow,” Saint Cloud ‘s opening track, is an unapologetic wanting of something bigger – bigger expression, a bigger life, bigger love. The repeated passionate refrain “I want it all” cements this. “Can’t Do Much” settles desire in another, and “The Eye” sees Crutchfield wanting her relationship to coexist with her calling as an artist. Powerful imagery sweeps through the lyrics, such as the lines “And I will chase all the rain, put it down, call it paint / To possess something arcane, oh, it’s a heavy weight.” Seeing Waxahatchee emote these words up close was a valuable experience.

Another major theme flowing through Waxahatchee’s music is the lens of self-introspection. In several songs, she boldly addressed herself, reckoning with self-doubt and the desire for self-improvement. With the internal dialogue of “Fire,” she wrestles with her limited perspective: “I’m a bird in the trees / I can learn to see with a partial view.”

Waxahatchee closed her performance with the titular track “St. Cloud,” which also happens to be the final song on the album. It mirrors the questions proposed in “Chapel of Pines” with the repeated statement, “when I go.” Lyrics of resolute affirmation (“on your own roof, yell what you know”) are juxtaposed with Waxahatchee’s gentle melody, serenely asserting her wants and desires explored in this performance.