Whitehorse performs at the 9:30 Club

Married duo Whitehorse performs at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC.

WASHINGTON, November, 15, 2012 —Performers have a tendency to date and marry people that are either in their field or have some creative connection to what they do. Rarely, though, do married performers perform together.  Those who do tend to be successes based on extending a real world marriage into a creative partnership. But considering the frequency of likeminded artists’ unions, it doesn’t appear to happen often enough.

Whitehorse on the other hand is almost singlehandedly determined to buck the prevailing trend all by themselves. This performing duo consists of Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet. They’re not only musical partners, but have also been married for over six years. Their marriage isn’t the only relevant about their music or their recent stage performance at Jammin’ Java, but it does inform a lot of what they do on stage and the songs they sing.

Whitehorse is a relatively new project for McClelland and Doucet. Although they’ve been married since 2006 and have made appearances or done work on each other’s solo albums, playing together as a band is something that’s only materialized in the last two years. Almost like a real world relationship though, it feels like they had to build things up to the point where they could perform comfortably together as an actual band.

What clearly helped make this transition easier is that Whitehorse doesn’t stray far, or at all, from their individual musical leanings. Before McClelland and Doucet became Whitehorse and even before they became a couple, they both were very much ingrained in the indie folk and alternative country scenes. This is still the exactly the kind of music they play as Whitehorse, even going so far as to rework a few of their older individual songs within the context of the new band.

Given their musical preferences, there might be a tendency by some to suspect their authenticity somewhat, given that both of them are Canadian but play in an American style. Even though the American south and Midwest has a seemingly cultural lockdown on what people perceive country music to be, alternative or otherwise, it does have a strong following in certain areas of Canada, however. And this is exactly the kind of atmosphere McClelland and Doucet brought to Jammin’ Java, as they spun some of their folksy songs for the audience.

The real fun watching Whitehorse on stage though was how they interacted with each other, whether performing their songs or simply setting up their next number. In spite of impressing the audience like the seasoned performers they are, everything about them had something of an impromptu, casual, and almost chaotic feel to it. Not to say it didn’t mesh with them, but it gave them this sort of manic energy that one would not think to associate with the band. At times, the duo almost felt like an old-time vaudeville routine whose performers mixed up stage routines by playing music.

Still, it’s that kind of edge that brought something different to Whitehorse’s performance. By the end of the night McClelland noted that they were playing for the first time without a set list, just to see what would happen. They clearly know their songs well enough that they can perform off-the-cuff and not really hit a snag along the way. Knowing that they’re married informs the closeness of their musical bond as well and also explains how they’re able to pull something like this off. And the audience at Jammin’ Java benefitted greatly from the relationship that makes up Whitehorse.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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