ACL Review: Whitney

A rootsy propensity for a good time

Last time Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich of Whitney played ACL Fest, they were part of Chicago indie rockers Smith Westerns. “This is going to be more fun I think, because we’re a better band,” mused the latter.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

They’d stumbled meekly to their designated spots, greeted by a breezy afternoon and an equally tame audience. Although a duo, they become a sextet live, adding trumpet, keys, bass, and guitar aside from Ehrlich’s drum and Kakacek’s guitar.

Mildly unkempt and all clad in a variation of jeans and tees, they invited the crowd to Light Upon the Lake, their debut. “Dave’s Song” kicked it off. They made up for the album’s brevity with covers of Neil Young, Dolly Parton, NRBQ, and Bob Dylan – alongside their newest unnamed song.

“This song is about too much of a good thing, which tends to happen at these music festivals, so drink a lot of water, or tequila if they have it,” instructed Ehrlich.

The shrewdness of the rootsy songs is leveled with their boyish demeanor, all twentysomethings with a propensity for a good time.

“It took me five songs to not be hung over after last night,” admitted Ehrlich. “I have to meet my girlfriend’s parents right after this, so if you have suggestions let me know. Or Xanax, or Valium.”

Whitney ran through the entirety of Light Upon the Lake, toward the end asking for suggestions, most of which called for “No Woman.”

“‘Golden Days’ is a better song than ‘No Woman,'” critiqued Ehrlich. “We’re not a one-song band. Sorry I’m being a dick. I’m nervous to meet my girlfriend’s parents.”

To the crowd’s indulgence but the band’s dismay, they closed out with “No Woman,” lulling the gathered as the trumpet scaled and Ehrlich’s falsetto climbed its ladder.

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Whitney, Smith Westerns, Max Kakacek, Julien Ehrlich, Neil Young, Dolly Parton, NRBQ, Bob Dylan, ACL Fest 2017

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