Show Review: Whitney and Hand Habits

Tuesday night was the third show that the band Whitney played in New Orleans, the first being three years ago on the LBC quad.  Since that first show in the Big Easy, the band has grown in number and popularity, currently hailing a whopping two million monthly listeners on Spotify. With an eight-piece touring band and a percussionist-vocalist frontman, Whitney always puts on an unforgettable show.

Opening band Hand Habits is a three-piece group founded by singer and guitarist Meg Duffy, dressed for the show in an all-white monochrome ensemble, somehow resembling both an ethereal angel and a cult leader.  I hadn’t heard of them before that night, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed their performance.  Since the show, Hand Habits’ sophomore album Placeholder has been operating as the soundtrack to my daily strolls to and from campus.

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 9.25.47 AM.png
Victoria Conway

With a quiet yet confident stage presence, Duffy’s hypnotizing voice is a force with which to be reckoned.  Though their songs are generally gentle, Duffy shreds on guitar with surprising vivacity, adding an edge to the band’s otherwise dreamlike sound.  With reverberant guitar and tender melodies, Hand Habits’ folksy performance felt incredibly vulnerable and captivating.

As the members of Whitney took the stage, I waited in anticipation to see what tonight’s performance would bring.  The first time I saw them, at Voodoo in 2017, I was fascinated to see drummer and vocalist Julien Ehrlich lead the group with a smooth falsetto that sets the scene for the group’s laidback yet lively energy.  The large ensemble includes a trumpet, synth, two acoustic guitars, electric guitar, bass, and drums, resulting in a sonorous sound and a mixture of textures that never bores.

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 9.25.58 AM.png
Victoria Conway

Forever Turned Around, Whitney’s sophomore album, dropped a mere two and a half weeks prior to the show.  This stunning record confronts the unexpectant nature of life, with its constantly shifting priorities and evolving relationships.  Though consistent to the Whitney sound in its resonant sound and crooning melodies, Forever Turned Around seems to possess a much more melancholic mood, as seen in tunes such as “Giving Up” and “Used To Be Lonely”. Despite this, however, the band maintained an energetic and lively sound while telling stories of the bittersweet transience of happiness, in true Whitney fashion.

The setlist possessed a perfect balance of the band’s two albums, devoting exactly half the set to each.  With ample variance in mood, from the upbeat “No Matter Where We Go” to the gentle “Light Upon the Lake”, I found myself vacillating between dancing and crying throughout the night (and every so often, both simultaneously).

As expected, Whitney and opener Hand Habits did not disappoint.  Each set felt incredibly intimate, inciting a wide range of emotions, from sadness to joy and everything in between. After the show, I spoke to trumpeter Will Miller and guitarist Ziyad Asrar, both of whom were incredibly friendly and down-to-earth.  Despite having a 5:00 AM bus call, they were planning on exploring the city while they had the chance, according to Asrar.  Hopefully, the city treated them well.

Cover Photo: Victoria Conway

Leave a Reply