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Review: Wednesday @ Rough Trade

Benji Chapman reviews the Wednesday gig at Rough Trade

By Benji Chapman, First Year English and Philosophy

The backwall of the rough trade gig room was draped in twinkling fairy lights, casting a glowing spell across the stuffy room. Bristol based math-rock band Lifter opened with bright guitar lines but which fluctuated between sparkling and distorted: their friendly faced opener brought a cheeriness to the room and livened the audience in preparation of the wall of sound from Wednesday.

Wednesday have been releasing music since 2017 as a shoegaze and country fusion project that encompasses a bizarre sonic combination. Utilising lap-steel guitar, soft fingerpicking and Kevin Shields-esque guitar from stacked amplifiers the two influences meet in a conflict that somehow produces something utterly distinct and beautiful. The two genres ducked it out on stage respectively embodied by guitarist MJ Ledderman who commanded shap lead guitar and bellowing dreamlike chord progressions whilst vocalist Karly Hartzman traded off with her melodic voice and its twangy North Carolina accent which would occasionally teeter into strained wails.

A lot of shoegaze music is often be mischaracterised as pointlessly noisy and sonically murky, however, Wednesday have addressed challenges by introducing a dynamic element into their interpretation of the genre. Dismissing the mumbled and heavily edited vocals ran through reams of effects pedals from classics like Loveless, Hartzman's crooning voice consistently cuts through the mix and even in a live setting the audience were collectively captured by her ability to maintain vocal clarity; the lyrics weren't lost in the sea of people but rather soared above the crowd and were complimented by the juxtaposing waves of fuzzed power chords.

Although the opposing sounds were diametrically at odds with each-other, they interacted in tandem to produce an abstract dynamic that was refreshing it is innovation. There was a balance to be found in combining the two however Wednesday have proven that when done properly the musical dynamics between two seemingly unrelated genres can produce a unique and beautiful sound that continues to push the limits of respective music genre dogmas.

Wednesday have been on tour for their new album Rat Saw God for a while now and this was their 3rd show in the UK so far and, as Hartzman noted, their 2nd with a "bellyful of noodles" from some impressive local restaurants. Credit was given to Bristol's own Chili Daddy noodle house (which was allegedly the best meal on tour so far) before the set began.

Playful crowd interaction continued as the gig progressed, the beaming face of Hartzman could be seen weaving through the swaying heads of the crowd and the initial mood of euphoric entrancement only increased as the music progressed. Requests were taken as the gig reached its conclusion: the band burst into a rendition of Quarry which Ledderman ended with a triumphant guitar solo.

Although Hartzman said she was feeling nervous as a result of the lengthy tour's toll on her confidence on stage, the kindness of the crowd who abstained from taking photos upon request seemed to reassure her that the Bristolians were a friendly bunch. We were met with cheeriness and praise as the show reached its encore, local music legend Big Jeff could also be seen swinging at the front of the barriers and stabbing his cane into the air enthusiastically to top off a night that displayed some of Bristol’s friendliest gig etiquette this year.

Wednesday are definitely one to watch with their ability to push the sound of rock music further still in a relatively saturated alternative scene, and certainly worth seeing live.

Featured image: Rat Saw God Album Cover

Have you seen Wednesday live?