It is a rare event that a concert goes exactly how you hoped: the artist may fail to live up to their recordings, favorite songs may be cut out of the set list, live experimentation may turn out sub-par. Wet’s performance Thursday night at the 9:30 Club, though, was one of these rare moments. The band’s live show justified their skyrocketing relevance – they went from selling out the U Street Music Hall in January to completely owning the audience at the 9:30 Club less than a year later. Every time a pause or brief quiet fell during the first few songs of Wet’s set, the crowd erupted in cheers, something I had never previously witnessed at the 9:30 Club. And those cheers were not unwarranted; Wet slayed.
Known for heartbreaking lyrics and an ethereal indie sound of bass, synth, and vocal overlays, Wet is not necessarily the type of music to dance to, and I wasn’t expecting the audience to be as electric as it was. But when I first set foot into the 9:30 Club, the opening “Deadwater” was playing and the crowd swayed and grooved to the booming bass. Wet effortlessly transitioned from calm indie recording into a live act that gave the club a tangible pulse. When a band’s sound is heavily trademarked by the lead vocals, as is largely the case with Wet, the shift from polished recording to live performance isn’t always smooth and can often lead to disappointing performances. However, lead singer Kelly Zutrau’s unfaltering voice commanded over all else, easily outmatching the blaring bass.
Zutrau’s voice was powerful, just as pristine live as recorded, and her overall stage presence cannot be overstated. From body language to focused facial expressions to the emotion she put into singing each line, it was evident that these lyrics were not merely words that sounded pretty scribbled down by Zutrau or filled in by a producer, and that each song was channeling true experience. This genuine presence extended beyond her time singing, as she endeared the audience with a series of loveable hops across the stage and expressions of extreme gratitude in between songs.
Crowd favorites of “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl,” “You’re the Best,” and “Weak” had the enamored audience singing along per Zutrau’s request. The most notable performances came with “These Days” (my favorite song of theirs – I definitely choked up during this one) and “Body,” two very emotional songs that do a great job of showcasing Zutrau’s voice. “Island” had never really been one of my favorite songs, until Zutrau introduced it, saying, “This was a song I wrote two years ago when I was living in New York and I loved someone and he didn’t love me back.” Listening to the way she sang “Say you want me, just say the words” gave me a new appreciation for the song, and I will probably never listen to it the same way again. Wet included songs which were released less than a month ago, such as “The Middle” and “Turn Away,” in the set list.
Wet released an EP of autoharp versions of a handful of their songs, including “All the Ways.” I actually like the autoharp version of this song more, because it’s slower and quieter, and allows for more focus on the very poignant lyrics. I was curious if they were going to play anything in the autoharp version. When Kelly Zutrau came out with the autoharp, most of the audience seemed a bit confused, but my reaction was “Oh heck yes, here we go.” “I’ve only done this live a few times,” Zutrau began. “And I’m really nervous. I don’ know why.” Nerves certainly didn’t show in her two solo performances on the autoharp, one of which was, thankfully, “All the Ways.” I was a happy camper as the show drew to a close. There were no missteps in the show; every beat sounded on point.
The set was heartbreakingly short and left me, and from the sound of it, others in the audience, needing more. While it was the last night of the band’s tour, the recent releases of “Turn Away” and “The Middle” have me hopeful that we could be hearing more new music from Wet soon. And their next tour? It’s as yet to be determined, but you can bet that I’ll be there. Listen, fall in love, and maybe I’ll see you there.