On a beautiful summer night in New York City, an intimate group of fans were treated to an unbelievable night of music by singer-songwriters Lori McKenna and Hailey Whitters. Nestled in the heart of downtown Manhattan is a beautiful venue called Subculture, where fans gathered to witness the 15th-anniversary tour of McKenna’s record Bittertown.
Making her New York City debut, Whitters took the stage first, winning over the audience with each and every witty statement, heartfelt anecdote, breathtaking vocals, and songs. She began her set with her song “The Days,” a beautiful ballad about making the days of our lives count. Afterwards, she paid homage to her Iowa roots, singing a song called “Heartland,” which she mashed up with the classic track, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” The crowd went on to sing each and every word back to her.
Slowing things down a bit, Whitters addressed the audience, sharing her experience with Nashville and the song-writing process for her emotive track, “Ten Year Town.” “Writing this song felt like a lot like therapy for me,” she shared, adding that she thought to herself, “I see the Opry billboard and I’m like is this ever going to happen for me.” Of course, Whitters went on to share the exciting news that she will be making her Opry debut on August 7th.
Another poignant moment of her set was when she sang her song “One More Hell,” which was inspired by her brother, who passed away. Although a heart wrenching personal story, Whitters somehow made the song feel relatable and touching all at the same time. Fans at Subculture truly fell in love with Whitters at that moment, which continued throughout the rest of her captivating set.
Next up, the woman of the night, Lori McKenna took the stage. Armed with an unmatched presence, a comedic personality, and an extraordinary voice, it was easy to see why she’s had such an incredible career thus far. As she tuned her guitar, McKenna laughed, while talking about who she was, when she wrote Bittertown, “Lori McKenna was real sad 15 years ago.” In celebration of that record, McKenna sang just about every song off her 2004 album, sharing that’s it’s been an interesting journey getting to bring these songs back to life.
She opened up her set with “Bible Song,” and “Mr. Sunshine,” and later sang her songs, “One Man” and “Stealing Kisses.” Early in the night, McKenna introduced the first song she wrote that was cut by another artist, “The thing about this record is I didn’t know Nashville yet. I didn’t have- I never had a song, I never co-written a song, I never had a song cut by somebody […] I was just hopeful thinking you know […] This was the song that Faith [Hill] found me and I found faith in that way.” The song, of course, was the mesmerizing “If You Ask.”
McKenna went on to sing songs inspired by her life with her husband, Gene, including, “Only Man,” and the sassy reminder to other women to stay away from her man called “My Sweetheart.” During the former, the songstress showed her appreciation for the fact that the song still reigned true for her as her husband and she are still together and going strong.
Some crowd favorites included, “People Get Old” and “Monday Afternoon,” but arguably the biggest highlight of the night was when McKenna sang her monumental songs, “Humble and Kind,” which was made famous by Tim McGraw and Little Big Town’s mega-hit, “Girl Crush.’ The former was a solo write by McKenna, which she shared that she wrote in her pajamas at home. Both songs marked McKenna’s first Grammy wins for ‘Best Country Song.’ She found even more success with these two gems, becoming the first woman to ever win the CMA award for ‘Song of the Year’ two years in a row. Luckily fans at Subculture got to witness McKenna’s incredible renditions of her beautiful tracks last night.
Throughout the night, both McKenna and Whitters delivered raw emotion, quirky humor, authenticity, and stellar vocals which only added to the spectacular ambiance of their performances. McKenna shared that “Bittertown brought [her] to Nashville,” and she feels that she is, “the luckiest person you’ve met in your whole life, and that’s partially due to many things, but due to the fact that I get to write songs for a living,” but we argue that witnessing her talent live was one of the most profound musical experiences that fans in the audience were lucky enough to be apart of.
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