Whitney at Howler, Melbourne, Friday January 27, 2017
Header photograph by Chip Mooney; see the show gallery
Howler was so chock-a-block on Friday that initially it seemed Whitney’s drummer, singer and bandleader Julien Ehrlich was playing by himself; his kit was centre-stage, elevated but also low-slung, with the cymbals way down at elbow level so we could see every grin and hear every individual response he gave to specific questions from the crowd.
And it was a rather chatty crowd, but that fit the scene completely: Ehrlich discussed eucalyptus highs and requested tequila (“Just a spare one?”) amongst a wistful, sensitive and stimulating set from the indie-rock/folk Chicagoan group.
Like a jazz ensemble, these guys have a wonderful appreciation for space and how to highlight each instrument; the trumpet trills on Polly fed into an awesome tete-a-tete with the electric piano, while Ehrlich played around with some extra syncopated snare bits – but no unnecessary, noodly BS in sight. I think trumpeter Will Miller had some sort of harmonic effect going on to create chords from his individual notes, but that could’ve been a trick of the atmosphere.
The group moved through tracks from debut 2016 album Light Upon The Lake (recorded and produced with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado), taking their time and moving into slow extended jams, with Golden Days and On My Own particular stand-outs of shiny, shiny musicianship.
The guys then left the stage so fast I thought they’d been raptured, but they soon returned to deliver astonishing renditions of Light Upon The Lake and No Woman: gorgeous plucked electric guitar, a stirring piano solo with high, crashing chords, and from Ehrlich, tripping tom rumbles like footsteps on an LA sidewalk.
A really charming journey from the guys; no wonder Sir Elton is a fan.
Light Upon The Lake is available now, via Secretly Canadian/Inertia.