Home Live Review Live Review: Wednesday @ Black Cat — 6/18/23

Live Review: Wednesday @ Black Cat — 6/18/23

Live Review: Wednesday @ Black Cat — 6/18/23
Karly Hartzman leads her band, Wednesday, in a sold-out performance at Black Cat on June 18, 2023. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Performing a sold-out show in the nation’s capital can turn out to be an important milestone for any musician. To do so with relatives in the room can make the night all the more meaningful.

This past Sunday night, Wednesday rocked the living hell out of DC’s famous Black Cat nightclub, showing why the Asheville outfit has become such a sensation, but also serving as an important, inspiriting night for band leader Karly Hartzman and her local family members.

Riding the merited buzz about the group’s most recent album and its first on the Dead Oceans label, Rat Saw God, Hartzman and her team of mavericks impressed the packed venue with a selection of original tunes pulled mostly from the new record but including songs across the catalogue.

Emotively blending the sounds of alternative rock and country and following the meandering allure of Karly’s voice, Wednesday presented songs in stirring, doleful, and enraged fashion, and fans who’d waited in line around the block on June 18 took in a rewarding dose of all the moods this talented unit effuses on a given night or any of its recordings.

Listen to the new Wednesday studio album, Rat Saw God, via Spotify:

Recorded on the latest Wednesday offering, “Turkey Vultures” showed off Karly’s melodic murmur — whining and writhing as it built on top of electric guitar and pedal steel guitar blaring from either side of Hartzman and the drums hammering in the back.

“Cody’s Only” and “Handsome Man,” from 2021’s Twin Plagues, are both Wednesday compositions that contrast the beauty of Karly’s longing and despair with the buzz, fuzz, and crash of this potent group of players.

The tight-knit posse was playing its second gig in DC, according to Karly, and it was comprised of Jake Lenderman on guitar, Xandy Chelmis on lap and pedal steel, Ethan Baechtold on bass, and Alan Miller on drums. Except for Miller, it represents the majority of those comprising Lenderman’s own acclaimed project — titled MJ Lenderman, it’s another group on the rise that recently visited the District.

“So, I gotta say, y’all are getting a special set tonight,” Hartzman let on early Sunday night, sharing that her grandparents were on hand for the occasion. “I wanted to curate a set that would ease them in. … We want to party, but they’ve never seen my band before.”

Karly endeared the audience all night, conversational between songs and lifted by the energy felt throughout the dark space. Family on her father’s side, she said, have lived in the Bethesda area for years.

“I grew up coming to this area a lot. DC was the only big city I went to for a really long time,” she said, calling it the “biggest city” in her world at one point.

Karly led Wednesday through more from Rat Saw God, stopping along the way to share tidbits about herself and her songs before pouring herself into a cover of the boozy classic “She’s Actin’ Single.”

The group was piercing and hypnotic across cuts from 2020’s I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone and more from Twin Plagues. Nonverbal communication and goofing hinted at many a day together and revealed a strong bond through this volatile music.

Widely regarded himself for his electrifying playing and extraordinary songwriting, Lenderman added texture and illusion to just about any song, but Chelmis too used the steel-string devices to mesmerizing effect Sunday night and Miller, though hard to see, pounded with an exuberance with no sign of tiring. The newest member of the group, Baechtold laid the wide, trembling foundation for these songs to explode beneath Karly’s anguish.

Hartzman praised the opening band on this tour, Tenci out of Chicago, a group that has been raising awareness and taking donations for the Southern Trans Youth Emergency Project. Hartzman commended the group and shared her own discontent for the angle of recent proposed legislation coming mostly out of Southern states.

She also read tarot cards handmade by the members of Tenci, giving each of her bandmates the wholesome opportunity to read one at the mic.

Sharing one of the most enduring songs from Rat Saw God, Hartzman prefaced the popular track “Quarry” with the context that it is in fact about her family. One of the most streamed thus far from the April release, it drew a fervent response from the Black Cat audience in an indication of its early status as a fan favorite.

“I’d like to thank my family for letting me sing about that to people,” Karly said. “Our lives are delicate, and it can be scary to share especially when it’s not even really your decision to share it.

Hartzman expanded on her own concern for what she described as “people making decisions for us.” And she ultimately closed the set with “Bull Believer,” a marvelous, unnerving display of restorative, climactic shrieking met with frenzied, melancholy instrumentation to make it a truly stunning presentation in the storied 14th Street venue.

Revisit Wednesday’s 2021 studio album, Twin Plagues, via Spotify:

The room cleared out, save for the line at the merch table, but Karly and her family gathered afterward to continue the celebration. And out on the checkered dance floor, she twirled and rejoiced with an older gentleman, presumably her grandfather, in what was a heartwarming scene and a fitting end to a memorable night for this band, its leader, and her family.

Turkey Vultures
Cody’s Only
Handsome Man
Formula One
Chosen to Deserve
She’s Actin Single (Gary Stewart cover)
Bath County
What’s So Funny
Hot Rotten Grass Smell
Here Nay
The Burned Down Dairy Queen
Got Shocked
Fate Is …
Bull Believer

Here are 35mm film shots of Wednesday, along with the night’s opening act, Tenci, performing at Black Cat in Washington DC the night of June 18, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.

Wednesday at Black Cat Washington D.C. June 18, 2023 Photo By Casey Ryan Vock

Wednesday at Black Cat Washington D.C. June 18, 2023 Photo By Casey Ryan Vock

Wednesday at Black Cat Washington D.C. June 18, 2023 Photo By Casey Ryan Vock

Wednesday at Black Cat Washington D.C. June 18, 2023 Photo By Casey Ryan Vock


Tenci at Black Cat Washington D.C. June 18, 2023 Photo By Casey Ryan Vock


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