Asheville, North Carolina quintet Wednesday, barrelled into Columbus’ modestly sized Ace of Cups in a veritable cloud of buzz. Mentioning the size of the venue is apropos because after this tour, Wednesday are bound for much bigger stages and audiences. It was mentioned by bassist and singer Karly Hartzman that their Ohio stop was the last show of a marathon 10-week tour, and that they’d be pouring it all out for the oversold crowd before heading back home to regroup, re-energize, and prepare to conquer the American festival circuit.
Hartzman was not wrong in her promise. One need to have only shown up for the show’s finale, the eight-minute behemoth “Bull Believer,” to see a perfect encapsulation of the qualities that have led to Wednesday’s meteoric rise. Within that span, the group traverses slightly-worn, acoustic folk-pop a la Big Thief before shifting to gigantic, undulating waves of shoegaze guitars, courtesy of secret weapon MJ Lederman’s almost-doom-laden riffs, and onward to even more esoteric bursts of dissonant noise that would make the experimental laundromat across the street (that routinely hosts avant-shows) blush. It was a song that, when I first heard it, I immediately knew that a ticket would be needed by the time Wednesday made it to town, as it would have been a huge case of FOMO to miss Hartzman’s ecstatic wails, which come in the song’s histrionically pummeling peak.
Yet, beyond that ultimate high, Wednesday are truly gifted at balancing emotional tenderness and the tactile experience of a live show with loud guitars and primal screams. Nestled between the rockist moments, songs like “Formula One” and instant-hit “Chosen to Deserve” are gilded by Xandy Chelmis’ pedal steel, veering towards easy-to-digest country-pop—perhaps the secret to their success. The sheer amount of universally loved genres packed into this year’s brilliant Rat Saw God makes for a buzz band of the highest order. That the crowd sang along to every word Hartzman sang as southern gothic confessional—relationship problems, drug addiction, weird smells in summer—is proof that Wednesday are likely to transcend this ephemeral love.