Red Bull Sound Selects has been putting on some fantastic shows in Chicago for quite a while. Their mission has always been to bring new music to the forefront and their 30 Days in Chicago series instantly looked like great way of giving Chicago access to great artists that deserve that shot. With the first day of the series going so well, the second evening of the series had a lot to live up to. The lineup they recruited pretty much cemented that it was going to be a great night. Philadelphia band Mt. Joy and two local favorite NE-HI and Whitney shared the stage at Metro for fantastic night of music.
Mt. Joy had the task of starting the night and took on the role quite well. Their sound was immediately catchy, giving the growing crowd a great introduction to the night. Mt. Joy successfully mixed a strong base of indie folk with more bombastic rock elements, There was a big contingent of the crowd that was grooving along to their from the start, but after the first few songs the rest of the Metro caught on to these excellent openers.
NE-HI took the middle spot of the night and proved once again why they are the most energetic bands from Chicago. Whether it’s in a short record store show or their ripping Pitchfork set earlier this year, NE-HI cranks the enthusiasm for their music to unbelievable levels. They never hesitate to go all out for a performance, creating a whirlwind of thrashing and dancing on stage that permeates in to the crowd. Alex Otake bangs away at the drums with determined zest, James Weir and Mikey Wells strum ecstatically on the bass an guitar respectively, but it’s Jason Balla’s explosiveness that stand out as it takes down mic stands and rips through guitar licks with all they fury their music demands.
When it came for Whitney’s time, bright red roses were handed out to the those in the very front of the venue, looking like the cover of Whitney’s Light Upon The Lake was being brought to life in everyone’s hands. The crowd was tightly packed and more then ready for the band’s throwback sound to take them over. Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek came to the stage alone with out the rest of the live band to perform “Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can)” and there was a palpable change to the atmosphere. Ehrilich sat off to the side, passing by the drums to play the keys for the tender Dolly Parton cover, and Kakacek began masterfully strumming his guitar. Within moments of starting the set there was no doubt that they would be putting on an immaculate performance.
Elrhich shifted away from the keys and moved over to his drum set at center stage as the rest of the band emerged and joined in on performance. Elrihich made mention that this show would be different than typical Whitney’s show, later explaining that it’s been a while since they played a show that they enjoyed. It was incredibly apparent that his show was something special and the entire group was working in perfect cohesion, especially in the wordless moments of the night like “Red Moon” where their instrumentation was flawless. Songs like “No Matter Where We Go” and “Follow” felt like heavenly jams that no one wanted to end. Whitney’s performance felt more nuanced and confidant than ever before, even as they made jokes about being unprepared. The band has honed their already pristine skills into something truly special.
They played through the entirety of Light Upon The Lake and a nice handful of covers, including the infectious cover of NRBQ’s “Magnet” which had the crowd swaying as lively as you would expect. Throughout the night the set list felt quite inspired with song pairings like “Polly” and the Neil Young cover “On the Way Home” playing on each other’s themes. The Bob Dylan Cover “Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You” struck a chord with “No Matter Where We Go”, working together on their devotion to another person albeit in completely different ways.
Ehrlich called out the encore well in advance, opting to warned he audience of a break instead of meandering aroun the usual wait and applause for a return to the stage. He and the rest of Whitney were doing things their own way, coming out with a bottle of bourbon and taking swigs before digging into “Golden Days”, “Rolling Blackout”, and finally “No Woman”. That final song, an obvious element missing from the set right up until the first notes were played, felt like letting out a breath that was held far too long. Everyone in the crowd was at ease as Ehrlich’s voice glazed through the song, serenading them as the night came to end.
All photos by Julian Ramirez