w/ Hand Habits
October 2, 2019 at The Royale
The Chicago-based indie folk band Whitney stopped at the Royale on Oct. 2 during their whirlwind tour across North America and Europe. Fresh off the Aug.t 30 release of their sophomore album, Forever Turned Around, this was their first full tour in over two years. The band was joined by Hand Habits, the indie-rock solo-project of Meg Duffy, for the Boston show in addition to a slew of other dates. Duffy, who uses the nonbinary pronouns they/them, also released their second album as Hand Habits earlier this year entitled placeholder.
Hand Habits began their set with “All the While,” a song off their first record, Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void), which set the warm tone of their performance. They played a mix of tunes from their two-record discography, providing a comprehensive entry-point for the (likely large) portion of the audience who were first time listeners. The crowd was treated to glimpses of Duffy’s ability to shred on guitar which caused quite an uproar during songs like “jessica” and “Book on How to Change.” From mellow melodies to powerful guitar solos, the range of guitar-playing styles Duffy was able to shift between seamlessly lent lends a great deal of complexity to the Hand Habits sound. The band concluded their set with “Book on How to Change,” and a prolonged jam, transporting the audience into a trance-like state.
Duffy bantered about memories that came to mind related to Boston throughout the set, though this was the first time they’ve played as Hand Habitshere. They recalled an emotional Mazzy Star set at the Royale they’d seen while recovering from a breakup and visiting the Boston Public Library and posting a photo of it on Instagram back when filters were a thing. Duffy also shared a tip for fellow “guitarheads” in the audience after playing slide guitar in one song: if you have small fingers, use a bit of leather wrapped around your finger to ensure that the slide doesn’t fall off.
For the headlining act, the many members of Whitney streamed onto the stage in matching black suits with crisp white button downs, which seemed more suited for a job interview as opposed to playing in an indie rock band. The juxtaposition of their put-together looks against the hazy painting of a field adorning the backdrop, the kick drum, and the cover of their new album, Forever Turned Around seemed to aptly match the at once casual and highly integrated character of their music.
Whitney swept the audience on a journey with the range of emotions and tempos their songs struck. Slower and sadder songs like “Forever Turned Around” were contrasted by upbeat tunes like “Golden Days,” on which lead singer and drummer Julien Ehrlich encouraged the audience to sing along to the catchy and memorable closing refrain.
As the set drew to a close, with many of their fan-favorite songs yet unplayed, Ehrlich announced that they only had two more songs before quickly revealing that the group actually had six songs left. They concluded the ‘fake’ end to their set with “Day & Night” and “Friend Of Mine,” before leaving the stage, though a few band members remained and mulled about. Upon taking their places again, the band opened their lengthy encore with “Used To Be Lonely.” Whitney went on to play two songs off their first album Light Upon the Lake, “Southern Nights” and “No Woman,” and concluded the set with “Valleys (My Love).”