On the night of their biggest-ever sold-out show, indie rock group Whitney took pains to make their audience feel at home at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The band’s singer and drummer, Julien Ehrlich, chatted with the crowd (as he would frequently throughout the night) while sipping his Tecate tall boy. Malcolm Brown sat down on the keys and opened his bottle of Red. Guitarist Max Kakacek picked up his six-string, and they were ready to go.
During their 50-minute set on Oct. 10, Whitney brought the entire venue back to the dog days of summer. They played every track off of their debut album “Light Upon the Lake,” one dedicated to a sunny season of love. Ehrlich and the band created a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the 550 people in the crowd. After one of autumn’s coldest, rainiest weekends, the mood was a welcome change.
They invited the audience in when they opened with an ode to a friend called “Dave’s Song.” From the opening chords and “I know you can’t help me now / sometimes people change,” the audience was feeding off of the band’s energy. A sense of friendship and camaraderie permeated the venue throughout the set, making for an absolutely refreshing moment of community.
The group continued with “No Matter Where We Go,” “Polly” and “Red Moon.” To follow that up, they played a cover of one of the world’s newest Nobel Laureate’s songs. Ehrlich wasn’t perfect, but his beautiful cover of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” would still have made Bob Dylan proud.
After “Follow,” they left the stage. Everyone knew Whitney had to come back though — after all, Ehrlich had told them that they would. As he said, he doesn’t believe in lying to the crowd, so as has become the norm with modern set formats, the encore came as no surprise. They came back out and finished up by playing “Light Upon the Lake,” the NRBQ track “Magnet,” and finally, to close everything out they played their biggest hit, “No Woman.”
The band was well-rehearsed, the songs fun and upbeat, but what really made the concert into an experience was Ehrlich. In between each song he would address the crowd, giving anecdotes like the fact that all his friends called each other “bubba.” The conversations worked; after they finished the next track, someone shouted, “What’s up, bubba?” It was as if it was that easy to all become friends. Ehrlich went on to chat about another album being in the works, how much he loved the Music Hall of Williamsburg and even about how his band manager has managed to keep everyone alive.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 17 print edition. Email Albert Keen at [email protected]