[ATTENDED: October 18, 2013] Whitehorse
Whitehorse opened for Barenaked Ladies at the Bethlehem Sands (our new favorite slightly larger venue–even if the acoustics aren’t great, the seating is good and the prices reasonable–we were in the 20th row for this set, which was really perfect).
I had never heard of Whitehorse, so when I saw that they were opening for Barenaked Ladies, I wanted to see what they were all about. I found a concert from Mountain Stage which was enjoyable but which I felt pigeonholed the band as a kind of country folk duo. They weren’t exactly what I imagined when I thought of an opening band for BNL. I actually wondered if BNL’s show would be more mellow in general, too.
Well, Whitehorse absolutely blew me away on stage.
They opened as I expected, with Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland (who were solo performers and recently got married) playing guitars and singing into one microphone (that last part I didn’t expect). They sounded great together. And the song (“No Glamour in the Hammer”) was very nice—mellow folk with a hint of country. And then things got really interesting. They each moved to a different microphone. McClelland switched to a bass, Doucet switched to an electric guitar. And then they started playing some percussion—Doucet played a bass drum with his foot while playing the guitar. Then he picked up some random percussion objects—small drums, maracas, even pots and pans—and hit them a few times. And that’s when I realized they were looping the percussion and building the rest of the song from that. McClelland played some keyboard and, at one point, she began singing into a distorted microphone to create some cool vocals which she also looped. A video camera closeup revealed that the “microphone” was actually an old-fashioned telephone. The first song went on for a pretty long time, building and growing and expanding And by the end of the song the crowd was hooked.
What was completely evident was just how much fun they were having. Both of them were smiling all the way through the set, in between singing of course. They looked at each other and shared moments, thanked us and BNL and told good stories to lead up to the songs.
The played six or seven songs (I didn’t know any songs names so couldn’t keep track). And most of them went on for quite a while–including the time it took to loop the instruments and the occasional percussion solo–they really enjoyed walloping those drums, even together. And while most of the songs followed this intensive building process, there were also a lot of moments (including the wonderful song “Broken One”) that were exclusively guitar.
In addition to being incredibly talented—they swictehd instruments so much it was amazing (with McClelland playing percussion and keyboards as well), and Doucet is a frankly amazing guitarist. Not flashy and wild, just incredibly talented—he has a great surf rock style and has great riffs at his disposal. His solos (rich with reverb) echoed throughout the songs and he makes some wild sounds with feedback (one of which made Sarah and I shudder). It was amazing to watch them.
Some other songs they played from their newest album The Fate of the World Depends in this Kiss were “Devil’s Got a Gun” with an amazingly simple yet unforgettable guitar riff and chorus, “Jane” which has an awesome and somewhat unexpected melody line. “Radiator Blues” (in which they played some of “Who Do You Love”). And now that I have listened to the album a few times I can’t quite remember what else they played.
For yes, I enjoyed the show so much that when the band announced that they would be meeting and greeting during intermission, I made sure to head out and check out their stuff. They were super nice and took photos with people (I chose not to). They signed my CD and chatted a bit. (And I loved their shirts). I was actually worried that the album wouldn’t hold up to the greatness of the live show, but it does. (Okay, the live show was a bit better of course). But I’m glad I got the CD, and the more I read about Doucet, the more I’m going have to check out his output too.
By the way, I stole these photo from Herd Magazine, out of Canada, where Whitehorse headlined a show. There are precious few photos of them live (and I didn’t take any during our show), so thanks Herd. The Herd review is also spot on.
Whitehorse were an amazing opening act and I’m totally psyched that they were chosen.