New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Feminine rage and queer joy: The Crane Wives rock New York

The Crane Wives creates community for fans at its Brooklyn show on Oct. 12.
Kiran Komanduri
The Crane Wives performed at Elsewhere in Brooklyn, NYC on Thursday, Oct. 12. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

“Do we have any feminine rage in the house?” asked Kate Pillsbury, lead singer and guitarist of The Crane Wives, before launching into the rousing tune of “Steady, Steady.” The question, asked during their show at Elsewhere, was met with resounding cheers from the crowd, who sang along with just as much enthusiasm as the band onstage. 

The Crane Wives, which formed in Michigan in 2010, has risen in popularity due to its harrowing and depressive lyrics, which are paired with catchy and high-energy beats. Pillsbury was joined by Emilee Petersmark, also on lead vocals and guitar; Dan Rickabus for percussion and vocals; and Ben Zito to round out the indie-folk band on bass. The band compares its sound to a modern-day Cerberus — affectionately described as Hades’ support animal.

Two women play guitar, smiling. They are angled towards each other.
Lead singers Petersmark and Pillsbury playing together. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

The Crane Wives kicked off its set with “Nobody,” a high-energy melody that depicts a toxic relationship with another woman. Petersmark carried this song with her powerful vocals, creating the perfect opening for the night. The 18-song setlist included plenty of the band’s hits, such as “Curses” and “The Moon Will Sing,” as well as deep cuts from throughout The Crane Wives’ discography, like “Never Love an Anchor” and “Hole in the Silver Lining.” Several new tunes were included in the mix of songs performed that night, including “Scars,” which Petersmark described as a companion to “Never Love an Anchor.”

The band’s chemistry thrived onstage. Rickabus’s percussion gave life to the performance and Zito’s bass fleshed out the sound of the songs, working in unity with Petersmark and Pillsbury’s vocals. 

A woman plays guitar onstage. She is in motion, and her figure is slightly blurred.
Pillsbury shines onstage. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

As incredible as the band’s performance was, what stood out most from The Crane Wives concert was the heartfelt community formed by the fans. Queer joy may not be the first phrase that pops into mind when you think of The Crane Wives’ music, given the often solemn and vengeful nature of the band’s lyrics, but it is undoubtedly what you feel during the show. Many of the people you meet while waiting in line identified as a part of the LBGTQ+ community, and this sense of shared identity was an instant icebreaker. Fans swapped Discord handles, discussed some of their favorite shows and podcasts, and even traded bracelets while waiting for the doors to open. 

This sense of belonging is in part due to their music — songs such as “The Garden,” “Nobody” and “October” contain lyrics about adolescence and LBGTQ+ relationships — but the band itself cultivates an environment of support and acceptance that isn’t always easy to find. At the beginning of the show, Petersmark told us that “it means the world to us that you’re here.” 

Fans cheer from the crowd.
Fans scream along during the show. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

The passion in the crowd was palpable — the fans knew every lyric and screamed along to the words all night long. They took in the new songs with rapt attention; all eyes were on the stage as the band’s soulful three-part harmonies carried over the venue. At one point, Rickabus even asked everyone to howl at the moon, and the crowd followed suit with enthusiasm. This group howl preceded none other than “The Moon Will Sing,” and was undoubtedly one of the best parts of the night.

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  • Petersmark and Pillsbury at the end of the show. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

  • Petersmark takes a moment in between songs. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

  • Bassist Ben Zito rocks out. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

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Contact Kiran Komanduri at [email protected].

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