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The sounds of Chicago arrive in Denver

Photo courtesy of Olivia Bee
Whitney and Lala Lala brought the sounds of Chicago to Denver.

Whitney and Lala Lala play the Ogden

Lala Lala and Whitney made a welcome return to Denver at the historic Ogden Theatre on Oct. 21. Facing the beast of a street that is Colfax Avenue for over a hundred years, the Ogden serves as the perfect venue for underground and independent music. 

Emanating through a hazy blue glow, the delicate but hardened voice of Lillie West from Lala Lala set the tone for an intimate opening performance. Lala Lala brought a somberness to their usually gritty sound—a decision that made more sense as the night went on. It felt almost like watching friends perform, especially with their DIY style and the clouds of cannabis smoke. At times they were entrancing with a stripped down and reverberating harmony. West spoke in muffled phrases between songs about visiting Red Rocks earlier that day and other awkward comments. Maybe she was nervous or felt somewhat out of place, but they still left the stage to a cheering crowd. 

Between sets, the room swelled with fans. People were crammed against each other like the light rail at rush hour. When the lights went off for Whitney, a roar of applause swallowed everything until Julien Ehrlich began to sing. Being the lead singer as well as the drummer for the band clearly is not a challenge for him. With seven people on stage, all dressed in black suits as if going to a cocktail party, they filled the room with sound. Each member of the band had a chance to shine, with the horn player, William Miller, often taking the spotlight. Aside from the occasional solo, every note was on point. 

Delivering a refined yet passionate performance, Whitney kept the crowd grooving despite technical difficulties. Although it was not immediately obvious, Ehrlich grew more and more frustrated with the microphone stand near his face, which kept flaccidly rubbing against his cheek. After several unsuccessful attempts to fix it from a crew member, they took a short break to refill on water and beer while the mic stand situation could be resolved. Ehrlich maintained his enduring charm throughout and continued to deliver a solid performance. 

Whitney and Lala Lala embody two very different types of music and brought different attitudes to the Ogden Theatre. While they both come from Chicago, the similarities might as well end there. Lala Lala and other groups like Girlpool and Snail Mail represent a femme-powered movement reminiscent of Riot grrrl in the 90s.

In contrast, Whitney and its seven dudes are like Bon Iver but less sad and with more catchy songwriting abilities. Despite their homogenous appearance, they do offer an unconventional blend of sounds by having three guitarists, a pianist, and a horn player, along with their lead singer also being the drummer. Their integration of pop-like melodies blurs the line between popular and independent music.

Whether or not the audience was a bit tame for Lala Lala, their decision to deviate from their recordings further illustrates the crevasse of artistic vision between them and Whitney.

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