Every job has its risks and, for travelling musicians, unexpected equipment failures are one of the most difficult to deal with. But, as in other walks of life, true professionals continue on, do their jobs, and put on kickass shows anyway. That brand of tried and true showmanship was on full display when the Don Giovanni Records Fall Tour rolled into the Black Cat on Wednesday as both Waxahatchee (broken amp, replaced earlier in the day at Atomic Music) and Screaming Females (mid-set equipment failure) had to deal with significant technical issues (Tenement appeared to be fine, though the lead guitarist did “mistake” a maraca for a guitar pick at one point).
After an energetic set from Tenement, Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield) took the stage in front of an enthusiastic audience, eager to hear live interpretations of the tracks from her standout 2013 album, Cerulean Salt. Katie did not disappoint, leaning on Cerulean Salt with tracks like “Dixie Cups and Jars” and “Lips and Limbs” with callbacks to her 2012 debut American Weekend (Including the stellar album closer, “Noccalula”) and a fantastic cover of “Make Your Own Kind of Music.”
That cover doubles as a credo (it is telling that it is also the band’s soundcheck song). As Waxahatchee, Katie traffics in a unique blend of punk and folk, frequently using the now traditional loud/soft/loud song structure to tell deeply personal stories dealing with heartbreak, loss, and struggles with identity. In a live setting, these raw sentiments are interspersed with raucous blasts of guitar, making the audience move…and occasionally forcing a delayed double take when you realize you’ve been enthusiastically moving to a lyric like “Dead leaves crunch, I will not be missed/I fill my jar up to the brim/I am an arid abyss.”
If Katie dealt in introspection with intermittent guitar, Screaming Females almost wholly abandoned the former in favor of one of the most amazing sets of guitar rock to grace the Black Cat’s stage. It has been said before and it will be again, but Marissa Paternoster is a guitar goddess. A five foot nothing dervish of bangs, hands, and screams. She is close to the platonic form of “shred.” While Paternoster (rightly) gets a great deal of press for her prowess, Jarrett Dougherty (drums) and Mike “King Mike” Abbate (bass) deserve acclaim for their high level of play. King Mike in particular reeled off a couple of bass solos that brought the house down.
From the first guitar riff (which caught an audience expecting a longer sound check napping), the band announced its presence with authority and didn’t let up until the aforementioned blown amp cut their set short. On tracks like “High” and “It all Means Nothing” Marissa’s wails and screams took the volume and energy in the room up approximately 87 notches, turning the Tuesday night crowd into a mass of banging heads and flailing limbs. The audience would have loved nothing more than for the band to continue playing, but, when it comes to Screaming Females, we will all take what we can get. Forty-five minutes of distilled quality beats mediocrity every time.