The must have badge of honour for any music fan (or muso if we are getting technical) is the “I was there” moment. The time your friend of a friend claimed to have watched the Arctic Monkeys in a corner shop with only 3 people there. It’s the benchmark for bragging rights in music conversations. However, there is also trepidation with statements like this. Use with caution, or forever be the one who claimed the “next big thing” was The Big Pink (I admit – that one was me).
Once again I find myself at that conundrum. But this time I need not worry. The band in question I refer to is Whitney, and they are fast becoming the worst kept secret of 2016.
Made up of Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich, the two ‘frontmen’ were previously attached to two other bands who themselves have gained respectable reputations of their own – Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns. Both write the songs and share the limelight, but live you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve walked in on a session at Ronnie Scott’s. Brass, keys, singing drummer, slick riffs – it’s all there. The band oozes class, but not too much that you feel alienated and distant from them. They take you on the ride and they are as appreciative as you are. Tonight’s gig even sees the band invite everyone to a karaoke session at Charlie’s Bar in Manchester. I can only imagine how that went down if they went through with it!
Now proud proclaimers to be “Elton John’s new favourite band” (back off Elton – I was here first!), Whitney have caught the imagination of fans and critics alike with their superb debut album ‘Light Upon The Lake‘. It has to be up there with one of the most talked about albums of 2016.
Gorilla is the setting for the “I was there” moment and the crowd that has gathered must have got the memo. The place from the get go is electric. A special mention to support act Julia Jacklin is worth noting. She has big expectations of her own, and with a worthy album to promote and be proud of, she sets the tone beautifully – a fitting warm up act to the Whitney lads. A delightful mix of rural country meets girl next door indie chic. The audience laps it up and this is pretty much the tone for the evening. It’s a beer swigging, arms in air, hugging the stranger next to you kind of night. Not that the songs would suggest that. They all carry a class of the music not only being catchy, but well crafted. It’s a slick operation and you can tell that just by listening to the album. Live – it’s on a whole other level.
Highlights of the set are ‘Golden Days‘, ‘Dave’s Song‘ and ‘No Matter Where We Go’ – all perfectly executed and delivered to album standard, but still bringing the energy to the live stage. But it’s the final song of the night and album opener ‘No Woman‘ that gets special mention. As the gig was drawing to a close, I knew this song was fast approaching and to be honest, I didn’t see how it would work as a closing set song. How wrong I was. From the opening trumpet to the mass sing-along, it was euphoric. I wondered how this gig would play out in my mind leading up to it and the performance of that song was enough to confirm that it was a very special night.
Personally, I believe you sense when a night at a gig is being lined up for something special. The smell. The crowd. The sounds. This is not to get confused with excitement for the gig, but when you have been to gigs for many years, you sense the tone of the evening just by queuing up outside. This was one of those nights.
I have been brave in the past and stuck my half-empty reputation on the line. Bands I have championed from early days have all gone on to some form of success. I believe Whitney can do something special. Bear in mind, Whitney’s last gig was at Gullivers in the Northern Quarter, and in the space of a few months they have gone from a small pub to a sold out show at Gorilla. This bodes well. The future is bright for these boys, and it’s time everyone knew about it.