Wednesday, XPN’s July Artist to Watch, made their XPN Fest debut this weekend, although it was not their first rodeo in the Philadelphia music scene. Lead singer Karly Hartzman expressed a deep connection to the city, saying, “This is like our second home. We love it here, and there are a lot of people here that love music.” (Drummer Alan Miller chimed in with a spirited “go birds!”) The Asheville, North Carolina five-piece band kicked off their set with “Toothache” from their second studio album, Twin Plagues. The noise rock song enveloped the audience, and it became clear what Wednesday is all about, particularly for one festival-goer who said to another, ‘”They are keeping rock alive!”
The atmosphere shifted as “Cody’s Only” opened on a more gentle tone, soon met by Hartzman’s almost yodel-y vocals, melding with the rough tone of the drums as she sang “You make me feel fluorescent / The perfume of the faucet / Too bad I can’t afford it / The bottom of my pocket!” This heightened the energy as the sky transitioned from day to night. Wednesday recommended “Formula One” as a good song to listen to on rainy days, and so for it to appear on the setlist was very flitting; lyrics like “Halloween decides to beat me into a pulp” matched the changing orange and green lights on the river stage, evoking the essence of the fall season. The next song, “Bath County,” delved into a narrative about watching someone overdose, with Karly’s screams perfectly conveying the intensity of the subject matter.
As they transitioned to the rootsiest song in their set, Karly asked the audience, “Y’all like country music?” The affirmative response was no surprise, given the festival’s Americana leanings. “Chosen to Deserve” featured a short solo by steel player, Xandy Chelmis, and had country toned riffs from Lenderman, accompanied by Hartzman’s twangy, reflective vocals. The next song on their set, “Quarry,” painted a vivid picture of a southern town and its inhabitants facing extreme suburban boredom, with salvation found in unexpected places.
“I’m trying to remember what I can say on the radio,” Hartzman exclaimed jokingly in between songs,, comparing on-air banter to talking to her grandma because she has to “watch her words.” At the same time, she expressed her appreciation for radio stations like XPN that support their community, mentioning that Lenderman had a radio show back home, bringing things full circle. For their final song, “Bull Believer,” off their recently released album Rat Saw God, Hartzman invited the audience to join her in a collective scream. The colorful lights created a captivating contrast to the song’s dark themes of feeling lost or empty while desiring resolution and healing with the lyrics “A corpse with a spirit,” “Believe me” and “Finish him!” reverberated through the air at Wiggins Park. The performance concluded with a simple “Thanks,” marking the end of a festival day that started off rocky but ended with a memorable performance.
Wednesday is going on tour around Europe beginning late October. Before embarking on the touring life abroad they will be at Highball Festival in Atlanta, GA starting October 21st. For their complete tour schedule, visit Wednesday’s website. Stream their second studio album, Rat Saw God, now, and check out WXPN’s instagram for more details/updates about today’s festival schedule.