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Whitney: Live at Meow Wolf

In the mystical and often disorienting universe of Meow Wolf, everything seems to come out of a Dalí painting. That is, if Dalí was tripping on acid. So it’s all the more interesting that, in this colorfully frenetic oasis, we are presented with a band whose primary color scheme appears to be denim, with light shades of brown. This band is Whitney.

One of the best bands to come out of 2016, Chicago indie-rockers Whitney carve their style out of a number of different influences. Combining the feel-good jams of The Band and soulful lyrics reminiscent of John Denver, duo Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek manage to make music that sounds very sentimental, yet appealing to a younger crowd.

Personally, I listened to a lot of classic rock when I was younger. The problem with that is, eventually, I listened to pretty much all the music from the genre. After a while songs that were once exciting now bore me, and it seems like the same twenty songs would make an appearance on classic rock stations. Light Upon the Lake, Whitney’s debut record, ended up landing at #2 on my favorite albums of 2016 mostly due to the fact that their throwback sound was much more relatable for me. Their lyrics contain stories about coming-of-age and the worries that come with it, one that any college student could relate to.

One of the first things you notice about a Whitney stage show is that the drum-set, rather than at the back of the stage, is pulled right up to the very front. Yes, not only does Julien Ehrlich drum, but he also sings, doing both masterfully. My fear was that the drums would create a barrier between Ehrlich and the audience, making for a less intimate experience. Turns out Ehrlich is a natural performer; his drumming only enhances the emotion that poured out of his sugary sweet vocals.

Considering the band only has one album under their belt it's no surprise that Whitney played a handful of covers. They kicked the show off with a wonderful rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can)”, such an emotive ballad that I could feel tears begin to stream down my cheeks. They also played a more funky cover in Lion’s “You’ve Got a Woman”. Ehrlich’s vocals on this track perfectly fit its 70’s flavor, and overall the song is much darker than anything the band had done previously. It’s an area I hope they explore more on future albums.

What makes Meow Wolf such an excellent venue is the intimacy it creates between band and crowd. It's as if you're at a house party that just happens to have an amazing band playing there. Whitney used this intimacy to their advantage on nearly every song. The distance between the band and I seemed to shrink, at times I felt to be the only person in the room. Ehrlich was also very witty during the performance. Near the end of the show, he said, “This is our last song guys”, and proceeded to give a not so subtle week. “Naw, we’ll come back on and play like three more songs”, he said.

That encore ended up being the best part of the entire concert. They played a brand new track titled “Rolling Blackouts”, which was very energetic for a Whitney track. It has me very intrigued to see how their next record will turn out. After that, they played a cover of the song “Magnet”. Prior to playing it, Ehrlich described NRBQ hit as “the perfect song”. I’m not sure I would call the song perfect, but it was by far the best the band played all night. That is not to say any tracks were particularly bad, in fact they all amazed me. However, “Magnet”, in its Motown flavored rock and roll, captivated the audience with its simple yet irresistible lyrics:


“I’m like a magnet

You’re like a piece of wood

Can’t get together

Don’t make feel so good”

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Whitney finished off with the most popular song off of their last album, “No Woman”. Recorded, the track seems so quiet and inoffensive, a tender lament on loneliness. Live, however, it comes to life, with kick drums and bass pounding life into Julien’s weary vocals. The trumpet, found throughout Whitney’s setlist, soar triumphantly, giving a whole new meaning to the song. Whitney are one of those great bands who are even better live than they are recorded, speaking to the level of their talent and musicianship.

Every song they played was met with a rousing applause, however the biggest response came in between songs. One fan yelled out to Julien, “Red or Green?” With a cheeky smile, the Chicago native responded, “Christmas.” The crowd roared thunderously, which echoed through every nook and cranny of the twisted colorful labyrinth.

Kyle Land is a music writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or

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