Wednesday Rip Down Boundaries on Tuesday at a Sold-Out Music Hall of Williamsburg
June 21, 2023
Wednesday – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 20, 2023
Plenty of alt-country bands love and lean into their alt, which, depending on the case, can mean anything from indie-rock jangle to electronica to cowpunk — linked, conjoined, integrated, refracted by, strained through or smudged with a range of country (or countryish) sounds. The Asheville, N.C., band Wednesday’s alt-country means throttling up the ’90s alt-rock and shoegaze without filing down the twang, and it works, thanks in no small part to how hard the band’s members own it when they’re in the moment. Pausing between songs, singer-guitarist Karly Hartzman comes off chatty, charming-nervous and adorably low key — although not so when in the thick of a woozy warble or a rageful scream. The band backs that up with similar heft and energy, whipping peals of guitar sound and clattering rhythm as if cutting through, not playing to, the audience. The curious stripe in the sound is Xandy Chelmis’s steel guitar — sometimes pronounced to color a country weeper, sometimes in the background, sometimes part of the shoegazing blur, always apparent.
Wednesday slayed the at the long-since-sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg on Tuesday night, rolling through 75 minutes of scorchers that mostly came from their ripsnorting 2023 album, Rat Saw God. The music on that is so ferocious and hard-hitting that you don’t spend time overthinking it so much as let it have its way with you — and then also realize the depth and tenderness of the material, as heavy, hard-bitten, rocking-yet-disarming as anything this side of the Drive-By Truckers (a band Wednesday name-check and are not unlike).
The five-piece was great at crawling all over these dynamics. “Gary’s,” “Quarry” and the aching “Chosen to Deserve” wore their country on their sleeve without completely yielding to the form, letting the edges of the songs get grungy and frayed. An actual country classic — the band’s scrabbly cover of honky-tonk great Gary Stewart’s “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” — was so scuffed up it was more Seattle basement than Texas roadhouse. A closing run of songs that included Hartzman solo on a cracked-beautiful “Feast of Snakes” and quiet-to-screaming epics like “Fate Is…” (which throbbed) and the epic “Bull Believer” (which scorched) raucously ripped down boundaries. Was it country? If you need that. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Photo courtesy of Chad Berndtson