4/17/18 – Somerville Theatre

Every one of us has sung our hearts out in front of a bedroom mirror, wearing only underwear, socks, or some other level of undress. For most of us, this behavior hasn’t left our bedrooms, or perhaps the shower. Maybe Bedouine, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee, and Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra never stopped doing that, judging by their performance methods. Each performer has a distinct vocal and performance style: Bedouine is quiet and confessional; Waxahatchee is vocally impassioned but immobile, and Hurray for the Riff Raff is exuberant and dramatic. But they’re all confessional in their own style, performing in a way you could imagine in front of a bedroom mirror.

Bedouine is an up-and-coming folk singer-songwriter who has the vocal cadence of a Joni Mitchell or a Joan Baez. There is something very plush and pleasing about her throaty vibrato. She performed on the Somerville Theatre stage by herself, accompanied only by a stool with an artfully placed electric candle and a can of La Croix. She bantered playfully with an increasingly large audience, seemingly uncomfortable with the silences that tuning her guitar required. She played her way through most of the songs on her eponymous debut album. Most the songs—”Nice and Slow,” “You Kill Me,” “Back to You”were slow and soulful. Per audience request, she played “Louise,” an Armenian-language song. She played “Solitary Daughter,” a song which could become a folk standard, and covered “little-known singer-songwriter” Elton John. All through her performance, however, it felt like she was holding back vocally; there was little change in her dynamics throughout the performance. However, at some moments, her soft singing and sparse guitar where hauntingly beautiful.

Waxahatchee is synonymous with shoegazey, sad-girl rock. Lead singer Katie Crutchfield’s voice is clear as a bell—sometimes fragile as glass, other times strong and ringing as brass. Crutchfield’s voice (and her twin sister Allison’s, who mirrors Katie on all choruses) is the most stand-out part of the band’s performance. Visually, the band literally fit the stereotype of shoegaze—their shoes must have been very interesting to look at, especially those of guitarist Ali Donohue and bassist Katherine Simonetti. Simonetti hardly moved her body, aside from her hands, and seemed to rather wish she was in her bedroom. While this may be how someone plays, it didn’t make for the most interesting visual. That and some bass and drum levels aside, the band played faithfully through a tremendous album, with a few visits to back catalog tunes, such as an acoustic version of “Swan Dive.” While the music spoke for itself, the performance just didn’t add a lot.

 

 

Hurray for the Riff Raff, however, could never be accused of a lackluster performance, or even of staying in one place for too long. Alynda Segarra acted every word that she sang. She raised her eyebrows, shook her hips, and treated the free space between her mic stand and the drummer as her personal dance floor. Although Hurray for the Riff Raff’s songs get quite political, and often rather dark, Segarra never lost her exuberance. It was evident that every song really meant something to Segarra: she introduced “Hungry Ghost” as “This one is for the queers”,“Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl” as a song about the “divine energy in every living thing,” and “Life to Save” as a song about “trying to stay alive.” The most arresting was a new song titled “Kids Will Die”, which she dedicated to all the children who are frightened for their lives. Singing with arms outstretched at the edge of the stage, and later on her knees, Segarra sang lyrics like “They’ll die with their hands in the air / and they’ll die screaming ‘This isn’t fair!’” and “There’ll be no monuments to the kids who will die / but in our songs they’ll be / and in our poems they’ll be.” The song did not mince words and, as such, delivered its full impact.

From messages of love to contemplation to calls to action, this grouping of seemingly disparate female acts delivered. 

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