Last Wednesday, the double bill of Whitney and Hand Habits landed at Saturn in Birmingham, AL to perform two captivating sets for a nearly sold-out crowd. With two brilliant releases between them (Forever Turned Around and placeholder, respectively,) the stage was set for a night of entrancing music from two of the best acts currently touring.
Led by singer-songwriter Meg Duffy, Hand Habits took the stage first performing the title track to their most recent album. The typically sparse arrangements were elegantly filled out with a full band behind Duffy, allowing for their guitar work to shine through. Initially, I was worried as to how the delicate music of Hand Habits would translate to a more energetic crowd, but Meg often punctuated the songs with biting humour regarding their gender identity, previous obnoxious crowds, and the entertaining stories from the road. Meg referenced how the crowd the night before could not stop talking, and how thankful they were for a more respectful, attentive crowd. The crowd was definitely quiet — they were simply spellbound as the band worked through songs from placeholder and their self-titled debut.
Whitney provided an alternate dynamic to Hand Habits’s delicate nature, as they marched on stage with a seven-piece band. This makes sense — Forever Turned Around has won critics over with its lush arrangements and ability to transport listeners to the soft-rock sounds of yesteryear. Immediately diving into “Polly”, the band operated almost as if they were a jam band as they moved from song to song. Tracks from their first record blended into tracks from FTA, and the talented musicianship of the band was evident on stage as they progressed through the set. Julien Ehrlich’s to stay on-beat while simultaneously stretching his falsetto never ceases to amaze me, and the fans gleefully sang along to all of the songs. The highlight of the set was the stunner “Light Upon the Lake” from their first album — despite it being the “saddest song of the night” as Julien put it, the song built into a powerhouse as the band slowly joined in. Expressing their thanks to Birmingham and commenting on the incredible treatment they’d received from the venue (a common remark among touring bands), Whitney left the crowd craving more, eagerly awaiting their return to the Magic City.
Check out our coverage of Hand Habits and Whitney below: