Friday, March 23

Concert review: Whitney

Indie-rock band Whitney consists of former Smith Westerns band members Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich (pictured). (Hannah Burnett/Daily Bruin)

Indie-rock band Whitney consists of former Smith Westerns band members Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich (pictured). (Hannah Burnett/Daily Bruin)

Asking someone to prom in the middle of a concert is the best time to do it.

At Whitney’s concert Thursday night, a high schooler climbed onstage at the El Rey Theatre with a poster and a bouquet of yellow flowers to ask his fellow classmate to prom.

“You gotta say ‘yes’ to him now, because, what the hell?” Julien Ehrlich said.

Despite the minor, endearing hiccup, the band managed to pull off a smooth, high-energy concert.

Whitney, a Chicago indie-rock band consisting of former Smith Westerns band members Max Kakacek and Ehrlich, performed a sold out show at Miracle Mile’s El Rey Theatre on Thursday night. The concert was part of a series of local shows in Los Angeles and Pomona put on by the band before they head to Indio for Weekend 2 at Coachella.

The crowd, consisting of approximately 200 teenagers and young adults, swayed and cheered as the band played its entire first album, “Light Upon the Lake” from 2016 and sampled some new material. For and hour and 10 minutes, Whitney passionately played music that kept its audience as well as its own members excited and grooving.

[Concert review: Hans Zimmer]

The band kicked off its set with “Dave’s Song,” which had the audience slowly grooving and singing along to the lyrics. The song began with deep notes from Josiah Marshall’s shiny, black bass and light twangs from Kakacek’s guitar. The number became more involved once lead singer and drummer, Ehrlich, stomped on the pedal of his rose-clad drum kit with his combat boots, leading the band into a burst of sound that livened up the venue.

Ehrlich, decked out in a grey hoodie and black overalls, greeted the buzzing crowd before him and commented on the scent of cannabis wafting through the air with a nonchalant 4/20 joke.

“It’s 4/20,” he said, “I’ll smoke some later, it’s basically legal here.”

Ehlrich’s jokes exemplified the casual tone of the concert. The rest of the bandmates kept cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer close on hand showcasing a similar laid-back ethos and feel-good attitude that permeated the audience.

Whitney continued forward with the light atmosphere of the concert with its song, “No Matter Where We Go,” a rock number that spoke of the optimism and excitement in relationships. The song began with Kakacek’s snazzy guitar riffs underlined by a swinging collection of piano chords by Malcolm Brown.

The band then switched gears and toned down the joyous mood with “Polly,” a somber song about breakups and nostalgia for love. Despite the somber material, the band managed to maintain a rocking rhythm by creating climaxes of powerful drumming, decorated by lusty brass and Ehrlich’s lofty vocals.

“If only we were young, you’d make me feel warm,” Ehrlich sang.

The band’s narration of love continued with “On My Own,” a short number with minimal percussion consisting mostly of tambourine and some snares, high, airy guitar melodies and Miller’s trumpet.

After the surprise prom-posal following “On My Own,” Whitney played a slower-toned song, “Light Upon the Lake,” bringing the audience’s attention back to them. The white lights surrounding each member mirrored their delicate collection of guitar strums and angelic vocal harmonies.

Indie artists of the ensemble Whitney performed a set at the El Rey Theater on Thursday, performing music from the band's first album "Light Upon the Lake" along with new material. (Hannah Burnett/Daily Bruin)

[Album review: ‘DAMN.’]

The band closed off the show with its more well-known song, “No Woman.” Brown opened with a scale of keyboard notes to hush the crowd, followed by a flourish of Miller’s loud trumpet. The band gradually built up the song from there, layering in vocals and acoustic guitar, then drums. But the crescendo halted at a sudden pause, during which Ehrlich thanked the audience for its support.

“Thanks again for coming out and see you in July or whenever FYF is,” Ehrlich said before counting the rest of the band back into the ending crescendo of marching drumbeats, full guitar strums and loud trumpet notes.

Each instrument slowly faded out, bringing the show to a complete and satisfying close.

As Whitney exited the stage the audience returned to the dark El Rey Theatre pit, sticky with spilled wine and beer, still abuzz from the sonorous evening.

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