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Gig Review: Wednesday at Whammy

Wednesday at Whammy
Thursday, February 22 2024 

Photographs by Álvaro Fernández 

Words by Stella Huggins


Wednesday at Whammy Mainroom was a sold out countrygaze extravaganza. Currently signed to Dead Oceans, the band consists of vocalist Karly Hartzman, guitarist Jake Lenderman (AKA MJ Lenderman, who’d played a surprise solo show earlier that week), lap steel player Xandy Chelmis, drummer Alan Miller and bassist Ethan Baechtold. Wednesday had seen their fair share of Aotearoa at this stage, having played the famed Camp A Low Hum earlier in their trip. Feedback from that show had been overwhelmingly positive, and the mideastern American band inspired that same adoration in their Auckland crowd. 

There’s a special genius that comes with choosing an opener that fits the precise vibe of the main act but doesn’t cut anyone’s lunch, and lately the promoters of Tāmaki have been eating up that task- Banished Music and Strange News being no exception. Local favourites KMTP (project of Keria Patterson, whose live band consists of Ali Burns, Matè Vella, Zac Arnold and Stuart Harwood (filling in on drums for Cameron Mason McCurdy)) opened the gig with a tight set, interrupted only by a drink delivery for keys and backup vocals legend Ali Burns. This drink delivery was via Whammy’s fairly-recent pulley system attached to the roof, a basket for canned drinks ready to be taken directly to performers. Rumour has it that it was the work of Thee Golden Geese, but of course no one can be sure.

Frontwoman of Wednesday, Karly Hartzman, started their set by shouting out the locals who took them to Goat Island. Unsurprisingly, these locals were in the crowd. Perhaps related to this Goat Island expedition, Wednesday let punters know Aotearoa was their favourite place they’d played thus far. It’s hard to ignore the feeling that bands say this to all their crowds- but warms the heart cockles nevertheless.

95bFM’s own Kaitlyn commented that she hadn’t seen people this excited about country music since she’d lived in Timaru. And indeed, this show felt like a marking point of the contemporary country fad reaching the very central point of Auckland. This observation could be more indicative of my own recent interest in country music, alongside a realisation that the genre isn’t something that’s just for blue collar American men who like beer and patriotism. It’s also potentially controversial to call Wednesday country- their genre space is decidedly up for debate.

The setlist consisted mostly of new work from their recent record Rat Saw God, which received undeniably excellent reviews following its release. I listened to Chosen To Deserve and pretended to like it a normal amount. During Quarry, the crowd sings along; ‘someone called the cops on Mandy and her boyfriend’. Pulley-drink-delivery-antics reached the main act, and they seemed charmed by the exercise.

The crowd had been fairly subdued (but appreciative and engaged) save for a shout of ‘Fuck yeah’ from one punter between songs, very early on. Hartzman, near the end of the set, broached the topic of politics, ‘so I hear your government is as fucked up as ours right now’, which was met with emphatic whoops of agreement, coloured with an exhaustion, from the group. 

She invited us all to engage in cathartic moshing to the absolutely haunting shreds and ripper vocals she provided. The middle of the crowd was happy to oblige, perfectly cushioned by the head-bumping but otherwise stationary periphery members. Our photo gallery from the excellent Álvaro shows just a fraction of the madness.

Wednesday On Thursday was a show that reminded me of the power of a cathartic scream. We’d all do well to remember that.