Whitmore fills M-shop with heavy boppin’ jams

All of William Elliott Whitmore’s most hardcore fans are pierced and tattooed. Many of the ones that attended his Jan. 21 concert at the M-Shop were wearing black shirts with names of various heavy metal bands. This wouldn’t be odd if William Elliott Whitmore played heavy metal music, or even rock music of any kind. He does not. Instead, he plays music that sounds like it just crawled out of a swamp. William Elliott Whitmore plays very dark music, and he plays it alone. The typical Whitmore song sounds like a song sung by a drifter riding the rails, or a slave who has been whipped. His music is accompanied only by his stomping boot heel for a beat and banjo or acoustic guitar, with lyrics that are often preoccupied with death and loss. Whitmore’s voice is that of a man more than twice his age, which aids his sound immensely. Whitmore’s stage presence was masterful. He is not a large man, and was dressed simply; he sat on a stool and didn’t move around at all, but the audience didn’t look away from him for two hours. While singing, he would close his eyes and swing around the microphone and put so much feeling into his songs of hopelessness and sorrow that his voice would hit the audience square in the mind. Despite the fact that he was a single man performing acoustic music, it was still the heaviest thing I’d ever heard. Despite all the emphasis Whitmore puts on sadness and inevitability in his songs, one gets the sense that he is really only doing that because he has to. There is something deeper in his songs, something that only showed its face occasionally during the performance, a sort of melancholy hope that is more dead-grandma-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel than light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel. The best part about watching Whitmore was trying to wrap my head around this weird duality of bluesy existential hopelessness and uplifting melancholy. After the show, the WEB got the opportunity to inteview Whitmore: The WEB: I noticed that a lot, if not all, of your songs dealt with death and the pain of everyday life. Do your songs reflect your own mindset? Whitmore: No. Actually, my songs provide an outlet for me to get all that out of my life, as opposed to reflecting my personality. If my life were like my songs, I don’t think I’d lead a very happy life! WEB: What about death? Do you believe in reincarnation? WH: You know, I think I do. I don’t have the faith necessary to believe in a Christian God, per se, but I think there’s a higher power, and I think we are rewarded or penalized depending on how we do in life. WEB:What do you think you’d be reincarnated as? WH: I don’t think God would make the mistake of making me a human again, so I’d probably be a lizard or something. It’d be sweet to be a grasshopper, though, wouldn’t it? WEB: What about a sparrow? That’d be pretty sweet. WH: Oh, definitely! I’ve always thought that birds had it all figured out. I mean, humans, we have computers and cars and such, but birds, they have the breeze. There’s a certain purity to that, you know? WEB: I do know.