“I’m really excited to overshare and laugh and cry with you tonight!” said Maddie Zahm, one song into her performance from the semi-stage of The Lounge at World Café Live this past Saturday night. The 24-year-old singer/songwriter sold-out the 220-capacity space in less than an hour (faster than Billie Eilish managed to sell-out the same room in 2017…) The crowd was comprised of LGBTQ folks who seemed to be barely on either side of 21, and whose fandom was the perfect amount of rabid for the listening room, which lacks any sort of divider between audience and performer.
The set featured all five tracks from Zahm’s debut EP, You Might Not Like Her, which dropped last August and chronicles the adolescence of a conventionally overweight, closeted queer youth traversing her most formative years in a church community. Although often gut-wrenching in the manner of many poignant coming-of-age tales, Zahm’s music is imbued with far too much heartwarming humor and charm to not ultimately leave listeners feeling uplifted. “Pocket Bible,” the opening track of both the set and the EP kicks off with the line, “Met some guy in my science class; Said he was gay and I didn’t get that.” The next track (again, of both the set and the EP… although the whole show didn’t go that way), “Fat Funny Friend,” tells the story of, “the best friend in Hollywood movies,” which seemed to resonate with Saturday night’s crowd with Morrissey-levels of profundity.
In addition to the songs of You Might Not Like Her – whose title track served as the encore of the hour-ish performance – Maddie Zahm’s set also featured her latest single, “Step On Me,” which chronicles her first queer breakup with shocking levels of empathy for her former love; “Blind Spot,” the ballad that seemed to have put Zahm on the musical map; along with a handful of unreleased tracks, most notably “Dani,” a chapter about a high school faux friendship that picks up right where the narrative of You Might Not Like Her left off.
Although I don’t necessarily see Maddie Zahm as destined for Billie Eilish levels of fame (a seemingly impossibly tall order at this point), but she certainly has the swagger of a star and the voice (both literally and figuratively) capable of speaking to and for a youth population growing exponentially more visible every day. And, as her debut in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection drew to a close, the 220 who packed into The Lounge seemed far more grateful to have experienced her than sad it was over, as it was more than obvious that she would be back very soon.