In times when people are more likely to find themselves a tear-stricken solo act in their car rather than in prayer, indie-pop trio Wet is primed to capitalize. However, while the hymns of old rung shared refrain through the walls of San Francisco’s The Chapel, Wet’s were met by a solitary, self-aware crowd. It’s hard reconciling the kind of music that many in the crowd would be most likely to save for their most solitary moments with the shared space of performance, where every movement feels like a personal confession.
Gearing up for the imminent release of its third studio album Letter Blue, the concert read like a soft launch. Lead vocalist Kelly Zutrau approached the stage with trepidation and focus, eyes locked square-center, above the crowd. As she finished performing each of the first few tracks, she whisked around in relief, spending a moment with herself, back faced to the audience. Just a day prior, the group played its first in-person gig in more than 1 ½ years, also its first with founding guitarist Marty Sulkow back in the band after leaving in 2017.
Endearing as Zutrau’s nerves were, her eventual embrace of the vulnerable audience proved more welcome. Her leadership earned the odd smile from an ever-smoldering Sulkow, and impassioned deliverance of bass-laden electronic soup through producer Joe Valle’s drum pad. Though she spent her first spoken words apologizing in case the band was to “play the songs bad,” Zutrau’s voice remained studio-accurate throughout. Her powerful midrange guided the mix, slipping into a delicate falsetto that fell into perfectly carved spaces in each track. Instead, they should have been more worried about their stage presence.
Acknowledgments between members of Wet were few and far between. Valle banged his sticks, Zutrau sang her songs and Sulkow plucked his strings, but all shied away from appearing as the old friends they are supposed to be, making music together. Valle strolled back to the stage, hitting his vape for the encore; Sulkow remained too cool throughout, robbing the emotion from Zutrau’s voice.
The artists’ energy was reflected in the small crowd, which only woke up as Zutrau declared that the short set was coming to an end. There was ample space left in the front as self-consciousness got in the way of fans approaching the stage, with most dancing resigned to the back. Wet’s music isn’t likely to produce a banging mass exaltation anyway, but improved chemistry might coax some more into exploring the personal places Wet has been with them for.
Despite the shakiness, the show exuded hope. Little quirks of the night, such as the slightly shoddy lighting, the occasional buzz of a floorboard or the disco ball perched abnormally high because of the steep-sloped roof of The Chapel were charming distractions that resonated well with the rebirth taking place on stage. It was the perfect setting for Wet to debut the track “Only Water” from its forthcoming album, with its holy themes and space-filling instrumental. The unique set of circumstances elevated the privilege it was to witness this band only just kicking off another chapter, ironing out the kinks that may mean subsequent audiences are treated to a better performance. It felt part of a story rather than just another show.
The Chapel was best positioned to highlight this narrative. Another defining characteristic of the venue is the viewing window above stage-right where artists can see the crowd before and after their set. Wet, especially Zutrau in her shiny jumpsuit, could be seen pensively watching opening act Aerial East before they went live. When Zutrau left the stage for the obligatory false ending of the show, there she went as her bandmates played her out, watching with a massive grin. A few in the crowd spotted her, instantly injecting the room with an energy that drove spirits high for the encore. That must have felt like a great way to start.