Whitney - Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, North Carolina - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Whitney - Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, North Carolina

by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date:
Whitney - Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, North Carolina
Whitney - Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, North Carolina

Given a delayed start, there was a rowdy Saturday night crowd on hand for opening band Hand Habits.  In spite of leader Meg Duffy’s efforts to calm the crowd with a plea for the “good children” (aka quiet fans) to be rewarded vs. the “bad children” punished, the boisterous ones weren’t very good listeners.  By the end of the night though attention spans seemed to lengthen and the “good” and the “bad” all ended up being rewarded.

Touring in support of Whitney for the next several weeks, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy gamely made the most of a late start and too much crowd chatter for their mainly low handhabitskey set.  Duffy put forth one of the most likely to grow on you albums of the year and a trio of songs from that release ultimately won the crowd over.  The group opened with older song ‘All The While’ and though separated on stage by Whitney’s front and center drum kit, it was clear Duffy’s band was locked in.  Particularly, harmony vocals by Kacey Johansing (guitar/keys) and John Andrews (drums) helped bolster the delicate drive of Duffy’s songs.  An impassioned take on ‘placeholder’ merged perfectly into the set highlight of ‘jessica’, which was paced as a gentle country shuffle leading to an extended solo.  Duffy gave a shout out to their first guitar teacher who was on hand and clearly in approval of the handiwork on display.  ‘can’t calm down’ came on as a cool breeze and the closing ‘book on how to change’ was one of the quietest of the set, almost daring all to listen more intently.   

The first time I saw Whitney was a few years back, prior to the release of Forever Turned Around.  Back then they had kakaceklittle choice to play their first album in its entirety and bulk up the set with a few covers and some of the wittiest banter around.  With two well crafted albums to their credit now, the Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek led band mixed things up well and came up with some smooth transitions to boot.  The shift from a punched up ‘No Matter Where We Go’ to the more delicate ‘Giving Up’ was taken right in stride and noted by Ehrlich.  He also called out crowd favorite ‘Dave’s Song’ as a "good one" and he's right.  Ehrlich’s drumming continues to transcend - silencing snares and coloring songs with woodblock and tambourine.  Likewise, Kakacek’s fluid leads go seamlessly back and forth from slide to more involved chords.

Touring as a seven-piece, the group hit its sweaty stride on ‘The Falls’ and a soulful take on the instrumental whitneyarticle‘Rhododendron’ went next level on trumpeter Will Miller’s skronky blast mid-way through.  A solid crew throughout, Malcolm Brown on keys also stood out working as hard as the leads.  The always affable Ehrlich got in some good lines about opting out of matching J. Crew suits given the balmy room and took an amusingly alarmed look at the kombucha strain floating in his pink drink - which may have had some tequila to go with the pungent mixer.  The group played ‘On My Own’ in tribute to its growing Spotify streams and closed the main set with Forever Turned Around album highlight ‘Friend Of Mine’.

The group extended out the encore to four songs, all of which were fitting to hold for the end.  ‘Used To Be Lonely’ had a graceful build and ‘No Woman’ was pushed to a powerful finish with Kakacek mimicking Miller’s trumpet lines.  Playing only one cover this time out, Ehrlich and Kakacek were left alone on the stage with Ehrlich putting down the sticks and pushing his falsetto lead on Dolly Parton’s ‘Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can)’.  Given the arsenal of a seven piece band, Whitney brings as quiet a storm of a show as you are likely to see out there.  Highly recommended, with plenty of dates left out on the road

All photos:  Dan Kulpa

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