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Last Night Today: Whitney at the WOW Hall [4.13.17]

Sometimes a bad crowd can ruin a live performance. Luckily, Whitney is too talented of a band to let that happen.

The Chicago-based indie-rock group played an April 13 show at WOW Hall and, unfortunately, the crowd was pretty damn bad. From constant loud talking during the quiet opening set to shouting drunken obscenities at the main act throughout the entirety of their performance, it seemed as though we were transported out of the dark corridor of WOW Hall to a rowdy, crowded campus bar.

It was clear most of the audience, at least those people near the front of the stage, had never been in a concert setting like this before — or, if they had, at least had never practiced basic, respectful concert etiquette.

Both acts held their on-stage composure though. New York-based singer and guitarist Julie Byrne played a serene opening set, acoustic and solo for the first part of it, and eventually joined by accompanying band members on violin and synth. Although beautiful, Byrne’s full and warm vocals were continuously crowded out by audience conversations, with some people even turning their backs to the stage in order to better address their groups of friends.

Luckily, the audience was much more engaged for Whitney, although not much quieter.

Though at times irritating, the crowd response was not surprising. Whitney produces the type of music that is inevitably likeable — by all types of people. No matter the content, from heart-wrenching love songs to nostalgic ballads about loneliness, the band’s material is always accompanied by an underlying sense of hopefulness and light, floating upon upbeat trumpet, keys and lead singer-drummer Julien Ehrlich’s flowery vocals. The first comparable instance of a live show experience that came to mind — sharply, in the moment when I saw a yelling drunk guy perched upon his friend’s shoulders — was Mac DeMarco’s show at Cozmic Pizza two years ago. Although the crowd was nowhere as bad as DeMarco’s sold-out show, which included people carelessly dropping pint glasses on the ground and drunken patrons yelling at the band to come to their frat parties, the experiences were definitely parallel.

DeMarco’s music is equally well-liked by both indie music-aficionados, who probably own all of his releases on first-press vinyl, and frat bros, who like to blast his tunes whilst playing beer pong on a sunny day — which can be said for Whitney as well. But this is in no way a bad thing.

Maybe I’m just cynical and jaded for disliking parts of the crowd on Thursday night, but, although disrespectful, it was clear those audience members were having a ton of fun. Whitney, inarguably, makes the type of music that brings people together. From college-aged ladies dancing to “No Woman” like they were on a table outside of Taylor’s in the summertime, to dudes bumping into their buddies and yelling the “na-na-na” part of “Golden Days” at their top of their lungs, Whitney is the type of band whose live performance has the power to make you forget about all your worries, at least until the night’s over. All photos by Todd Cooper