Chicago-based Whitney kicked off their fall tour with a show in Nashville on September 29. The band, built upon the core singer/drummer and guitarist duo, Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, blew up in the independent rock world after their 2016 freshman album, Light Upon the Lake. Combining mellow indie pop with modern jazz undertones for a unique, chill, and groovy blend, Whitney has become a favorite in the indie rock scene.
The night started with opener Kweku Collins, a 21 year old rapper and Chicago native, whose 2016 album, Nat Love, landed him critical acclaim and attention nationwide. His appearance took the crowd almost by surprise as he burst out full of energy and started singing and dancing. His style fluctuated between vibrant hip hop, and slower rap ballads, but he never lost his energy. While his music is wildly different than Whitney’s, the difference between acts was a really fresh twist and amplified the whole experience, and Collins is an artist well worth keeping track of.
Shortly after Collins finished performing, Whitney came out, sat down and got right into business with, “Dave’s Song”, letting the performance serve as their introduction. The song was incredible, and Julien, a rare drummer frontman, killed it. Whitney then casually introduced themselves, creating a mellow, down-to-earth impression, despite the renown of the band and the duo’s prior involvement in Smith Western, and Julien’s in Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Before songs, Julien would jokingly warn the audience that they might suck in a self-deprecating but simultaneously carefree, jovial manner. However, the band proceeded to always play intricate and enthralling songs flawlessly, chalk full of subtle perfections and synchronized melodies that made it very clear how talented they were. The interesting dichotomy caused the audience to be enthralled in the experience, while keeping the ‘no-big-deal’ vibe going. A venue change in the week leading up to the show that had them downsize from Marathon Music Works to The Basement East played directly to their strengths, and made the concert more intimate.
One highlight of the night was when Whitney broke out a cover of the 1975 obscure psychedelic rock cult favorite, “You’ve Got A Woman”, by Lion, a digital version of which was released in March. The band followed up the song by laughing and bashing on the song’s goofy lyrics, saying that if someone ever tells you “Trust in me, I’ll set you free,” to get the heck away from them, causing the audience to fall in love again with their carefree charm.
When Whitney played their “final” song of the night, Julien addressed the crowd and told everyone that this was when artists normally left and came back after making the crowd cheer for an encore. He said that they were leaving the stage because they needed a break, but then would be right back with the “encore.” And so they left and a couple minutes later they came back and closed off the night with three songs, ending with the band’s first single and most popular song, “No Woman”. It sounded amazing and was the perfect capstone to end a night of great music.