There’s something about Whitney that draws the hipsters in their masses. Most probably it’s a feeling of kinship: if not for the raised stage it would have been impossible to discern the band from their audience. This is not a criticism – just an observation about the overwhelming majority of the crowd that had squeezed themselves into the sold-out Bodega on Friday night. The small venue was teeming with carefully trimmed beards, plaid shirts, Frankie Cosmos baseball caps and eager eyes peeping out behind wire-framed glasses.
The evening was opened by Julia Jacklin, fresh from the October release of her debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win. Jacklin had an earnest manner that captivated the growing audience with ease. Her indie-rock/country sound was sweetly unfussy and self-assured, but her voice was the real kicker. Lyrics were sung with a sincerity that resonated around the venue.
“The anticipation broke into a collective squeal as the six-piece band launched into ‘Dave’s Song’”
Mid-way through her set, the Australian musician revealed that her last set at Bodega was attended by about five people. A lot has changed: by Jacklin’s final song (the title track), the room was full. You might not have guessed it though: the crowd had hushed to an affected silence and the previously casual atmosphere had intensified.
About forty minutes later (and after a moderate amount of faffing), Whitney finally made their way onto the stage. The anticipation broke into a collective squeal as the six-piece band launched into ‘Dave’s Song’. Within a few minutes, Whitney’s combination of “soul-country boogie” (with a hint of slacker indifference) had successfully charmed any crowd member that wasn’t already enraptured by their very presence.
Having released their ten song-long debut album, Light Upon the Lake, just five months ago, Whitney made up for their somewhat sparse material with dynamic covers, including Bob Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You’, and copious conversation. Lead singer/drummer Julien Ehrlich was blunt, charismatic and clearly in his element as a front man. He singled out individuals in the front row, chatting to them and shaking their hands. He asked the audience to suggest places to go to after the gig. Another question: “Is anyone here in love?” Any enthusiastic affirmations were dryly rebuffed.
“Whitney teased the fervent audience with long pauses before every chorus…”
Whitney requested that the room darkened for a rendition of ‘Polly’, but the triumphant, trumpet-filled chorus lit up the room. The reaction of the crowd felt incredibly authentic: the packed room was animated and a genuine buzz was felt by all.
After a short, purely ceremonial encore (“we’re gonna leave for about thirty seconds and then we’re gonna come back and play three more songs”), the night was closed by ‘No Woman’. Whitney teased the fervent audience with long pauses before every chorus. A few moments after supposedly finishing, they launched into the first chorus for a final time and the appreciative crowd wailed along with them, even louder than before. Altogether, Whitney’s warm, lively sound struck exactly the right chord(s – ha ha ha) in the snug Bodega on a cold and rainy November evening.
Image courtesy of Bethan Ogg