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We Are The West fills El Cid with sound and a perfect fit.
Review: We Are The West (WATW) has made a name for itself in Southern California with its literal underground concerts – “literal” in that they perform in an underground parking garage in Santa Monica every month on the Saturday before the full moon. But this 21st Century progressive rock band has moved far out of the parking garage to fill concert halls and venues large and small across the country with their hauntingly beautiful, crescendo-filled combination of music, sound and voice that is like nothing else on the modern rock scene.
The original duo of Brett Hool on guitar/vocals and John Kibler on standup and electric bass/vocals added virtuoso drummer and vocalist Elizabeth Goodfellow, clarinet and sax man Sylvain Carton, Ben Tollidy on the cello and Paul Cox on the organ for a band that can create music the sonic equivalent of a very, very good acid trip.
WATW took us on that very, very good acid trip this weekend at the storied El Cid in Silverlake, Los Angeles, with twelve songs that soared, shimmered, hypnotized, eardrugged and did everything a band can possibly do to create another world and then completely suck an audience into it for 45 minutes. And they did it with such power and clarity that they felt like the Pink Floyd of 2015.
The location was perfect; El Cid is a venerable two and half story Spanish-style venue that dates back to 1925. It rambles down a hill ,with interior gardens, stairways, a patio with movies, multiple bars and best of all, a large, sonically tight venue at the lowest level that is feels and sounds underground. The stage is high; the acoustics are excellent and the sound system works well with the room. The perfect match for WATW.
The match worked especially well for WATW’s specialty – the crescendo. Many of their songs flow into long stretches of rising power. The crescendo had a strong presence at the El Cid performance, with at least four of the dozen songs on the set list morphing into power drives. In each, as Goodfellow’s hands and arms shapeshifted into a speed-driven blur on the drum kit, her eyes closed, face set in tight concentration. Brett Hool’s voice rose to impossible heights with a timber that suggested a determined, cornered animal. John Kibler coaxed unnatural sounds from the bass that sometimes took flight and other times growled back. Through it all, Beth Goodfellow's drums pounded and projected, filling a room with electricity like a heart whose pacemaker has caught a solar flare.During the crescendos, the entire band moves like a single living being, each member entranced, focused moving autonomously like gears in a beast more machine than human hurtling forward.
But WATW was not all about power this weekend at El Cid. They sprinkled fairy dust on the room with gentle - and eerie - songs like “A New Haven” and “The Hammer” and “Groene Hart”, and the lilting “Good Luck (and all that stuff)”. Of the dozen tunes on the WATW play list that night, many were not on one of the installments of a four-part, self-titled album, they have recorded in different improvised locales. Those new to WATW just enjoyed; but fans took note; there is more WATW to come. A good reason to find the secret underground parking garage this weekend and hear what surprises WATW has in store for its growing audience.