The Collegian
Saturday, April 13, 2024

Music Mondays: Wednesday on a Monday night

<p><em>Graphic by YounHee Oh, The Collegian</em></p>

Graphic by YounHee Oh, The Collegian

Karly Hartzman, the lead singer of the alt-country indie rock band Wednesday, screamed her final lines to a sold-out Broadberry crowd on a Monday night with a surprising ferocity more in line with heavy metal than Lynyrd Skynyrd. However, her band may very well be the future of country rock. 

If you haven’t heard the band Wednesday, imagine this: lap steel guitar straight out of a 70s Dolly Parton record mixed with a wall of distortion. If you pictured the guitar solo from “Free Bird,” you might not be far off. 

Their performance at the packed Broadberry was soulful, tour-tested, and just straight fun, with soft, vulnerable moments throughout after blasting their heaviest bridge breakdowns to the rafters.

The tasteful guitar performance of MJ Lenderman (a songwriting tour de force in his own right) was a welcome counterpart to Hartzman’s microscopic, confessional lyricism. 

My Monday night started off with a solid performance from opener Hotline TNT, playing tracks from their critically acclaimed sophomore album “Cartwheel,” a shoegaze release in 2023 that I thoroughly enjoyed (listen to “I Thought You’d Change” for a shoegaze banger.) 

The excitement in the Broadberry intensified to a low roar as soon as Hartzman joined Hotline TNT for their last song, initially wearing what appeared to be all-black Pit Viper sunglasses and tossing oranges into the crowd. 


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Wednesday’s Karly Hartzman performing at the Broadberry on Jan. 22.


The energy kept climbing throughout the night thanks to the phenomenal performances by Lenderman, Xandy Chelmis on tasteful, atmospheric lap steel, Ethan Baechtold on bass, and drumming with the perfect mix of looseness and pocket by Alan Miller.  

Wednesday’s latest record “Rat Saw God” carries their sound from experimental, shoegaze roots to the solid ground of alt-country rock, maintaining the swirling walls of fuzzed-out nostalgia via explosive guitar riffs and quietly beautiful moments that made their debut record “I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone” one of my favorite discoveries of 2020. “Rat Saw God” is a microcosm of the 21st-century American South. Dollywood, Drive-By Truckers, dogwood trees, doses of Narcan, and death in Bath County, Virginia paired with teaching in Sunday school and driving a friend to the emergency room after too much Benadryl.

“Rat Saw God” topped the 2023 year-end lists in publications like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, and was ranked the best album of the year by Stereogum and Paste, which was no small feat for the Asheville-based quintet. 

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Hartzman’s songs, described like fading mid-2000s color photographs, are too detailed to be fiction, but like all good stories, they’re too embellished to fully believe. Hartzman majored in photography at the University of North Carolina Asheville, and her songs often preserve time and atmosphere within a careful frame. 

The lyrics ofRat Saw God”, often highlighting the beauty in the mundane (and the ugly), could have been written by poet William Carlos Williams, if he was born in suburban Appalachia in the mid-90s. “Bull Believer'' contains choruses that never repeat, and “Hot Rotten Grass Smell” is just eight lines long, but this non-traditional narrative form is never noticed while listening – the melodic and rhythmic structures of Wednesday are so tight that you’ll forget you’re in a story, not just an album. 

A Wednesday record is written in memories, like vignettes hanging on a wall –  borderless, washed-out. When the music fades, if I listen closely, I can bridge the gaps of Wednesday’s sound and memory – the audience cheering as MJ and Karly share a laugh, and the venue clock ticking, slowing only for their last song.

Contact opinions writer Toby Tate at toby.tate@richmond.edu.

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