maddie zahm’s irving plaza show was an intricate, inspired, emotional event

maddie zahm’s irving plaza show was an intricate, inspired, emotional event

Fans had no problem waiting in the heavy, pouring rain for Maddie Zahm. Before doors even opened, the lengthy line to Irving Plaza wrapped around the venue, stretching for blocks upward. This isn’t completely odd for certain shows at Irving Plaza, but I only had one question: who was Maddie Zahm?

I hadn’t heard of Zahm before, and was quite curious. It was clear she had cultivated a very large fanbase. To figure this out, I began questioning them. I wanted to know everything about her, and was quickly given the story:

Zahm’s fanbase developed from an EP, You Might Not Like Her. With singles such as “Fat Funny Friend,” “If It’s Not God,” and the title track, “You Might Not Like Her,” Zahm went viral. She went viral on Reddit, she went viral on TikTok, she went viral pretty much everywhere. And it’s easy to see why. Zahm writes confessional lyrics about some of her most painful experiences, creating mini-memoirs. She also shares these stories on TikTok, providing a safe place where fans can experience not just her music, but who she is as a person. 

Chronicling her youth and young adulthood growing up in the church in Boise, Idaho, Zahm discusses religious trauma and how it can play out in the mental, emotional, and physical self. She also notes her bisexuality, and how the church made her feel alien unto herself as she sought to understand who she really was, entering the stage of unlearning. (In fact, in the video for You Might Not Like Her, Zahm and her parents act in a scene depicting her coming out story. The scene ends with a group hug.) Zahm has also struggled with weight gain due to her diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and describes how she was treated by her peers, with multiple scenes in the You Might Not Like Her video. 

It’s Zahm’s candor, authenticity, and unwavering kindness that have most endeared her to her fans. Now touring for her new LP, the appropriately titled Now That I’ve Been Honest, the response to Zahm has exploded. For the EP, she played at smaller New York City venues such as the Mercury Lounge. For her LP, Zahm graduated to Irving Plaza.

I began asking fans if this was their first Zahm show, the answer usually being a resounding “no.” There were, however, newer fans Zahm gained with the success of her LP, most of whom were eagerly waiting for this show since it was announced. The majority of fans revealed that they had experienced one or more of the issues Zahm addresses, offering them solace and representation. It wasn’t just the music they loved, it was Zahm herself.Her shows are safe spaces, they told me, where everyone is welcome and included. Fans also detailed how they met at Zahm concerts, from making new acquaintances to forging close friendships. 

I asked for more specifics on Zahm’s live show, which was summed up for me by one fan: “You just have to see her. It’s hard to explain. But when you see her perform, you’ll just get it.” And this fan was right, far more right than I even knew. 

When Zahm walked out onstage, she was beaming from ear to ear. In fact, the first photo I snapped was of her infectious smile. Her fans cheered and gazed at her longingly, reverently. She opted for her first song to be a slower one, the achingly beautiful “Blind Spot.” Maddie sang so close to the edge of the stage that I thought she might fall off, but I quickly understood why: Zahm wants to be as close to her fans as possible.

In between lyrics, Zahm went around to the first row, saying a quiet hi, sometimes with a wave, to each fan up front. In addition, Zahm often holds the mic to the crowd, inviting them to sing with her. It’s this collective chorus and communal space that causes fans to refer to Zahm shows as “church.”

Zahm is witty and sharp, often cracking jokes between songs. Prefacing the second track on her LP, “Eightball Girl,” she noted that her mother, upon hearing the song, asked her if she was doing cocaine. (For the record, it’s about a magic eightball.) Loud laughter echoed throughout the venue, bouncing off the walls. The balance between pain and its collective intimacy, laughter and joy, is what a Zahm show brings. It’s clear her star will keep rising—and we’ll follow with it. 

The second leg of Zahm’s tour is happening now! Dates are below:
May 20 Wooly’s – Des Moines, IA 
May 21 The Waiting Room – Omaha, NE
May 23 Center for the Arts – Jackson, WY 
May 24 Knitting Factory – Boise, ID

Zahm on the Kelly Clarkson show can be seen here.

butch walker @ irving plaza

butch walker @ irving plaza

Phenomenal songwriter Butch Walker headlined a show at Irving Plaza in New York fairly recently, captivating the crowd as he has for years. The energy coming off the stage was palpable as soon as he stepped on, and we were regaled with a gorgeous evening full of amazing showmanship. Photographer Christie McMenamin captured that for us, and it can be witnessed below.


greg holden @ irving plaza

greg holden @ irving plaza

Acclaimed singer/songwriter Greg Holden made his return to New York City on September 23rd. Opening for Butch Walker, who produced his single, “On The Run,” Holden’s performance was like a homecoming. It’s a rare thing for an opener, especially one singularly armed with an acoustic guitar, to hush Irving Plaza from front to back, but Holden managed to wield this uncanny power with effortless ability.

When Holden first emerged from the side of the stage, the crowd’s vigorous, impassioned applause was astonishing. He strolled out with an unassuming, quiet confidence and began strumming as the audience quickly fell silent. As his 7-song set kicked off, Holden was oftentimes chatty between songs, lending an affable familiarity with a room of people whom he’d never met, treating them like valued friends. Constantly encouraging the crowd to sing and clap during parts of his songs, Holden’s set was interactive, a joint, group effort.

On “Home,” Holden issued a command for the audience to stop their feet in time to the beat. In turn, he received an eager assent as the stomps echoed throughout the venue and shook the floor. Holden’s newest track, “The Power Shift,” was prefaced by a quick lament, noting Donald Trump was currently in the city. The audience loudly booed, prompting Holden to launch into this political song, calling others to recognize the link between power and inequality, and one that was more than well-received in New York City.

“Boys In The Streets,” arguably Holden’s most moving song, showcases his lyrical prowess, one that is omnipresent throughout his work. Telling the story of a father struggling with his son’s sexuality, it’s only on his deathbed that he makes a confession: his intolerance was due to what he was taught growing up. He finally understands and encourages his son to be himself. Holden’s live performance evoked the pathos and pain of both son and father, and cheers went through the crowd as Holden reached the uplifting conclusion.

Lastly, Holden performed “Hold On Tight,” a triumphant, empowering song that bursts into a big, gleeful chorus as he sang an urgent warning: “don’t take your life for granted.”

It was an awe-inspiring set from a seasoned musician, one who will no doubt be back to New York City in the future.