Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Whirr have always been a polarizing band. Their blatant affection for shoegaze-drenched post-hardcore has received equal criticism and praise, especially regarding their 2014 LP Sway. Some are put off by the perceived lack of innovation, while others commend the Oakland, CA quintet for sticking to their guns. But what really draws the line in the sand for people is the band’s now infamous internet presence, which many find insensitive and hurtful while their defenders claim Whirr’s comments aren’t meant to be taken seriously. Now, I don’t want to presume you can’t take a joke (or an entire Tumblr of them), so let’s take a look at one of their online interactions together and see if we can make sense of Whirr’s harmless tomfoolery.
Alas, I guess we’re just not as hip to Whirr’s quirky sense of humor as the exceptionally tall dudes slowly nodding their heads that constitute the majority of their fanbase. Despite their wacky internet hijinks, Whirr’s headlining tour with Pittsburgh emo kids Adventures did manage to sell out The Middle East’s upstairs stage, which made me wonder if their live show was just so incredible fans were willing to ignore their less than appealing persona (I believe this is called a Kanye Complex). Plus, I have a few friends who up until now kept telling me I had to see Whirr live, and did remember listening to Sway and thinking it was a pretty solid record. So, despite originally going to the show to review Adventures’ set, I decided to stay for Whirr and finally see these guys for myself. I mean, what could go wrong?
What you need to understand going into this is that Whirr simply does not care. That may sound like an unusually harsh judgment based solely on watching them play for thirty-five minutes, but you don’t need to take my word for it. Lead guitarist Nick Bassett made it perfectly clear in this fun little interview he did with Noisey. Ignore the fact that they went on a tirade against Ian Cohen of Pitchfork after he gave their 2013 EP Around a score of 6.5 and later called Nothing’s 2014 LP Guilty of Everything a metal record (shown above). Ignore the fact that they search through their Facebook commenters’ profiles to come up with ways to diss them. Whirr doesn’t give a damn what you think. Their only concerns are “blowing out every PA system we can, alienating hype-hopping hardcore dweebs, taking people’s money, and being the greatest band of all time,” all of which they have already accomplished in Bassett’s eyes. And if nothing else, their live performance proves their dedication to such ideals.
Honoring their reputation as “the loudest band in the world,” Whirr opened their set with a few moments of calm, shoegaze inklings before blindsiding the entire crowd with an absolutely crushing wall of fuzz. All three guitarists were sure to keep the crunch on their guitars at full-blast for the entire set, obliterating any notion of actually hearing the melodies and calmer, more dream pop-esque parts of their songs. Not to be outdone, bassist Eddie Salgado had the drive on his amp up so high that 99% of his output was feedback. There were about three or four instances where he calmed his tone down enough that I could actually hear notes, but other than that he just kept blasting because Whirr has to be the loudest band ever, balance be damned. Luckily frontman Loren Rivera managed to commit to the vocals, or at least he appeared to. He was barely audible amidst the distortion pummeling my eardrums, so for all I know he was reciting Danny Phantom’s opening theme 37 times. Or stealthily calling everyone in the crowd a pussy, which would be fairly consistent with what I’ve come to expect from Whirr.
Weirdly enough, the sole silver lining throughout Whirr’s drone-fest was the complete lack of audience banter. Whirr didn’t talk at all during their entire set, and while most people would probably be pissed that the band didn’t try to engage the crowd, given their reputation the lack of dialogue was more than welcome. Unfortunately, it was still bittersweet, because they insisted on letting the feedback and reverb ring out between every single song, which is the indie rock equivalent of dragging a hunting knife down a chalkboard. It’s the kind of odd performance choice that makes you wonder if that’s not how they live their lives, with ambient guitar reverb following their every breath. If all that wasn’t obnoxious enough, they ended the set by abruptly taking off their guitars and walking off stage without a so much as a heads-up, playing smooth jazz piano from the PA as they walked off because they didn’t think anyone fully understood how avant-garde they are. They also left everyone, sound guys included, hanging on whether or not they’d do an encore, because leaving a sold-out room of fans to awkwardly stare at each other is by far the edgiest way to end a show.
Unless you enjoy getting floored by ambient noise for forty-ish minutes, I suggest steering clear of Whirr’s live show and sticking to their far superior recorded material. Or better yet, satisfy your shoegaze cravings with a band that is less likely to call you a retard for no reason. That their records are actually enjoyable makes their downright obnoxious live set even more disappointing. It’s clear Whirr are more than capable of writing great music, but then they choose not to show it because deep down they are nine year-old children who have to have everything as loud as possible all the time. But Whirr doesn’t care what you or I think, so they will continue their bold quest to ruin every PA System within reach, answering any who might challenge their excellence with a defiant “LOL pussy.” In the meantime, I eagerly await Whirr’s thoughts on my intelligence based on this review and whatever they can find on my Facebook, because as I cannot stress enough, they don’t care what anyone thinks.