With Julie Byrne
Monday April 10th, 2017
@ the Biltmore Cabaret
I find it pretty strange that I have been involved in Vancouver’s music community for almost two years and have somehow never set foot in the Biltmore Cabaret. The downpour that night as I walked to the venue set the atmosphere for Julie Byrne and Whitney.
It could have been the type of show, or perhaps it was the lingering effects of the gloomy night hovering over everyone piled in at the Biltmore, but it was just the right environment to meet new people. In the homey coziness of the Biltmore, people were falling in love, making friends, gaining confidence, all while accompanied by the rather cinematic soundtrack of guitar solos.
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Julia Byrne graced our west coast city with her phenomenal guitar playing, although it was her silky voice that captured me. It’s ethereal and captivating to hear her, either singing or addressing the audience, everyone felt comfortable and at peace in the moment. It is hard to put into words just what it is about her alluring croon, I urge you to go listen to her new entrancing releases. The dreaminess of her tracks put a spell over the whole crowd. It was, to put it simply, beautiful.
For me, Whitney embodies the summertime. With exceptional melodies and sickly sweet lyrics, tracks from their debut Light Upon the Lake like “No Matter Where We Go” are my go-to for dancing in the kitchen, while “No Woman” accompanies me along thoughtful train rides. You may know some of the members of Whitney from bands like the Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The Chicago band is made up of Max Kakacek, Julien Ehrlich, Josiah Marshall, Will Miller, Malcolm Brown, Print Chouteau and Charles Glanders, a tightly knit crew, resembling one big family up on stage.
Frontman and drummer Julien Ehrlich came out in overalls with a glass of wine, joking with the huge crowd.
“The law says you cannot touch but I see a lotta lawbreakers out there,” Ehrlich said, cracking up as he quoted the new Louis C.K. standup. It only takes one joke for the crowd to loosen up a bit; they launch into “No Matter Where We Go” and the dancing begins.
People give a few whoops of approval as Ehrlich contextualizes the next song, grinning at the audience, “This is a song about anxiety you get at parties.” There’s a guy spinning his girlfriend into a dip and a group of friends belting the lyrics. It was a good old fashioned dance party, and everyone felt it.
There’s something to be said about how this band tugs at your heartstrings with the timing of everything. Whitney messes with the tempo and the expected. They give you a few fleeting moments, expecting a slow soulful track (“Dave’s Song” being a prime example of this) until they almost smack you with a guitar, a trumpet, drums, all kinds of harmonies for you to be almost physically moved by. Go hear for yourself on their album Light Upon the Lake, you’ll find a song that catches you off guard.
It’s phenomenal to look around a city like Vancouver and see people of all kinds drawn into one room to dance to some Chicago soul. Ehrlich spoiled us that night, saying this was their “last song” with some air quotations to go along, and then came back to a loudly cheering crowd.
“What about Magnet?” hollered somebody from the crowd.
“This is the one you guys have to dance to.” Ehrlich remarked before launching into a cover of “Magnet” by N.R.B.Q. and finally ending the night with “No Woman”. The entire night, Whitney made me feel right at home and I wager that’s why so many people are drawn to the soul of the band. They took the city and made everyone feel welcome to dance, sing, and be at home.
To catch Whitney on tour, check out tour dates here.