The opener for Wednesday night’s show at the Doug Fir was my headliner. I heard about Whitney through a reverberation radio mix a couple weeks ago. “No Woman” had been on repeat through my speakers an uncomfortable amount of times.
So there I was, eager and waiting to see if the live performance would meet the build up I had created.
At the core of the six-piece band that assembled onstage, Julien Ehrlich (drums, vocals), Max Kakacek (guitar) both merit introductions. This was Ehrlich’s homecoming show, although the band is now based in Chicago. Previously playing with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and both Ehrlich and Kakacek playing in the Smith Westerns (where they met), it all starts coming together and making sense once you understand the connections.
Frequently pinned to genres that mix and rename all sorts of things associated with rock, country and soul, it’s easier to list all of the things Whitney makes you feel through their sounds. Their lyrics often touch on change, breakups and dark times during dark seasons. Ehrlich mentions one influence that’s stood out: Jim Ford. That raw, vulnerable sound and influence carried through their entire performance.
Ehrlich mentioned right in the beginning that he was, or might be intoxicated. It wasn’t an annoying statement by any means, but definitely one that seemed to project how humbled he was sitting on that stage in front of an audience that was possibly full of his past. The band seemed to play through their set confidently, though Ehrlich’s vocals were quieter than they seemed to be. Again, this projection of being humbled came into focus and their performance turned into more than playing music. This was an open diary entry to the Portland audience. We sucked it in and peered back with hungry eyes, cheering on more with each song.
The six musicians, together, had this way about how they all interacted as a whole. They looked at each other with intensity and closeness that could only come from shared hard times and a shared vision. That was impossible not to notice and the reason why I stayed.
Whitney is releasing their album, Light Upon The Lake on June 3rd. You can listen to “No Woman” below.