Temperatures in the low 20s didn’t stop Philly from getting to Wednesday‘s show at Union Transfer. The North Carolinian band and XPN Artist to Watch continued touring their imposing full length masterpiece, Rat Saw God — number five in WXPN’s best albums of 2023 MEGA List — with Brooklyn’s Hotline TNT and Philly’s ECHOTRACER this past Wednesday night.
The Union Transfer crowd rapidly grew in size during ECHOTRACER’s set. Facing each other, guitarist/vocalist/sampler Douglas Dulgarian (of local heroes TAGABOW) and full body 2’s drummer Jack Chaffer dialed in with laser focus. Dulgarian often cued Chaffer at key moments that shifted to the next drop or sample. FUCKING22STEP, released this past November, is a four-track EP coming in under 15 minutes. The crowds experienced an expanded version of these tracks. The duo could lean into the really catchy bits like the rippling cyber synth section of “POISON LEAD” or really build up to the drop in “PEELBACK SWAY”.
Union Transfer heard some familiar songs in ECHOTRACERS’s set, like a “Cyber Sex” by Doja Cat sampled in the title track for FUCKING22Step. ECHOTRACER’s audio brain massage explored the varieties of electronica, amalgamating 90s piano power chords and cascading marimba samples, early 00s club/house pulsing fusions and more into its own unique creation. Dulgarian’s experimental writing stretches its legs in this project.
ECHOTRACER definitely caught the crowd off guard. However, they warmed up and started to dance like they were in a dark club, not a Wednesday show at Union Transfer.
The first thing that jumped out about Hotline TNT Wednesday night, other than guitarist/vocalist Will Anderson’s sick cobweb dye ‘do, was a physical sense of camaraderie among Anderson’s current touring band. Anderson and Hotline TNT kept to an invisible line that placed them side by side, as if meeting the crowd where they were at in solidarity and mutual respect.
Hotline TNT took Wednesday night’s crowd back in time from 2018 to 2023 to a few in-between. Cartwheel, released this past November, expands on their moody, fuzzy guitar and vocal drone and slower grunge approach like“Stampede”from 2019’s Nineteen In Love, which appeared about halfway through Hotline TNT’s set. An example being their gut-wrenching performance Wednesday night of “I Thought You’d Change” by Anderson. Or the band really leaning into theinstrumental vibe of “Antonio” off Go Around Me also a 2019 release.
On the other side of the Hotline TNT coin are the higher-octane songs marked by the frenzy of antagonistic lyrics and chaotically strumming guitars.It’s that velocity that first popped up with “Are You Faded? off their first ever release, where Anderson playfully kept an interlude going. Nineteen In Love’s high octane “Had 2 Try” closed it out.
Their set definitely left the Union Transfer crowd wanting more TNT but also primed for headliner Wednesday to take the stage.
Karly Hartzman wore a custom designed long sleeved black t-shirt from her collection on Wednesday night. Sown onto the front was a patch that read “My parents said I could be anything, so I became an asshole.” The shirt felt like an addition to her particular charm, which is a tangible element of Wednesday both in set banter and in the stories she tells about her life in North Carolina and the south lyrically.
Speaking of banter, just a few songs in, Hartzman wanted to see if the Union Transfer crowd was paying attention. Wednesday played “Hot Rotten Grass Smell” off their latest and hyped album Rat Saw God second. The group had played a completely new song first and by all accounts the crowd loved it, and was a doubling down on Rat Saw God.
Between swigs of pink wine and the grungier sides of Rat Saw God were the “country-er” tracks like “Chosen To Deserve”, which brought Hartzman’s twangy vocals more to the forefront, incredible steel from Xandy Chelmis and guitar solos from MJ Lenderman that specifically felt like homages to older country folk ties. Wednesday’s ability to encapsulate where they came from and their formative memories and integrate those with harder and rawer arrangements is best felt live.
Because, and obviously, the Union Transfer crowd were itching to mosh and sing and push around their cohorts with toothy grins some more. They chose tracks like “Gary’s” off 2021’s Twin Plagues, which Hartzman shortly after noted fans choose the weirdest songs to mosh to teasingly.“Toothache” off the same album was played early, definitely mosh-y too, even if not consistently opportunistic earlier in the set. It would be hard to say the crowd wasn’t having a great time.
Wednesday came to the end of their set announcing that the two songs and two songs only remained. First was “Ghost of a Dog”, a song Hartzman said her parents used to sing to her when she was young, a heart breaking song that swept a somberness over everyone.Second was Rat Saw God’s “Bull Believer” which Hartzman asked the crowd to scream for the death and pain currently experienced by Palestinians. She declared that as a band with two Jewish people in it,Wednesday denounced that violence and suggested the crowd scream along with her for those victims.
The Union Transfer crowd and Wednesday screamed together to close the show. Check out photos from it below; the band’s winter tour continues this weekend with a trifecta of hometown-adjacent shows in North Carolina, click here for dates.