- Whitney played Mama Roux’s on June 21st
- It was the bands second performance in Birmingham since the release of their debut album
- “Estrogen pop” band, Girl Ray supported in style
Leaving the backstreets of Birmingham’s creative quarter for a few hours, tonight’s crowd were transported into what felt like the film set for A Streetcar Named Desire complete with low lamps and exposed bricks in garish colours.
Opening with ‘Stupid Things’, Girl Ray displayed a sound reminiscent of 60s pop and its dreamlike, near suburban essence, the vocals spiral and fall into a steady chorus surrounded by the fuzzy warmth of cymbals and delicate harmony. New single ‘Preacher’, wistful and layered, sets a subtle yet steady tone for the rest of the set coupled with the serenity of drummer, Iris McConnell.
Girl Ray are old souls as shown through their suggested influence of Joni Mitchell with intricate and effective outros being their forte. ‘I’ll make this fun’ draws upon silky melodies spiraling around a sparky beat, emitting a sound comparable to Hinds, if they were from London; thus sharing in the renewal of sounds that bolstered the greats and inspire those younger.
The band move in effortless coolness, with their slot easily being an Urban Outfitters campaign paying homage to the 90s, light up tambourine included. Closing with notable single ‘Trouble’, Girl Ray let the bass lead through the track that echoed sentiments of girlhood and rebellion, leaving the audience possibly only being disappointed by the shortness of the set and the lack of ‘Where am I Now’s’ innocent distortion on the set-list, but also in a state of calm anticipation of debut album, Earl Grey to be released in August.
Boasting a lineup of seven, including a trumpet and a pair of bongos, Whitney took to the stage in an air of complete ease.
‘Golden Days’, with its vibe of nostalgia and sound comparable to Dev Hynes’ period of ‘Lightspeed Champion’ was still unprecedented in its authenticity. Experimentalism, as shown through previous projects of the members including Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns, was evident through their innate ability to jam. Each member appearing to be one with their instruments creating an almost tangible connection between audience and collective beyond the physical. The front man also being the drummer was an initially odd set up, but allowed for witty repartee especially between a huddle of drunk men in their mid-thirties, one of whom threw a water bottle of gin onstage. “Who even drinks gin on its own?” was the response from an amused Julien. Having played Birmingham before, in late August last year, Whitney had a command of the audience with dark humour received well by the mature and trendy crowd.
Although Whitney released their debut album only last year, it felt as though they had been playing together since the beginning of time. Their closeness exemplified after a kiss on stage between Julien and Josiah at the end of pensive and poetic ‘Red Moon’, which was met by a rapturous cheer from the audience, as well as the overall chemistry of the group, in which an array of instruments and sounds were able to be employed without sounding cacophonous but instead harmonious and near celestial.
‘The Falls’ in its buoyance created an image of witnessing a jazz band jamming in the middle of a European town square. The band were in their own world as they played; the white lighting appearing cool and fresh from the stickiness and sweat of the crowd, the keyboardist barely keeping himself on his stool as Julien’s drum sticks whisked across the surface of the kit like ombre fans in the humidity. An essence of Americana was especially carried by ‘Follow’, a slow fusion of twee southern rhythms with with the mellow trumpet sound weaving its way through the crowd in a display of shameless romance.
Stating, “We don’t like the show but we like the song”, the band launched into a 45 second rendition of the Golden Girls theme song complete with cheers of drunken confusion from the audience, followed by the upbeat NRBQ cover of ‘Magnet’ that had an initially sedate crowd bopping their heads enthusiastically to the jovial riff.
‘No Woman’ closed the 14 song set with its melancholic opening chords that dropped into the atmosphere as the audience swayed. Transitioning from the dulce, tranquility it possesses on ‘Light Upon the Lake’ to a thicker and more robust version that still maintained its cathartic delicacy alongside the participation from the audience in the first and final lines, “I left drinking on the city train/to spend some time on the road”, Brummie accents discernible in the mix.
Whitney are a band made for an intimate space such as Mama Roux’s through their ability to expend their cohesive energy across the audience. From the passionate and bargy lad, to the most scrutinizing musical purist, encasing us in a spell of refreshing regenerated folk.
Photography by Jonathan Morgan
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