Sunday, November 6, 2022

We Are The West Hosts 100th Parking Garage Show

We Are The West performing "For Giving"
If someone had told me that some of the most magical nights of music I would experience in my life would happen in a parking garage, I would have said he or she was nuts. It does not seem the sort of location where the elements would come together in that special and rare way necessary for magic to happen. Yet We Are The West takes the parking garage at 701 Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica, and once a month transforms a section of it, giving it an intimate and warm and friendly atmosphere, making it feel like someone’s home. The home of all who attend these concerts, actually. They began these shows a decade or so ago, and last night played their one hundredth parking garage concert, an interesting milestone. I hadn’t seen the group since before the pandemic began, and this seemed the perfect occasion to check in with them. After all, with the midterm elections only a few days away, the stress of these strange times has been growing again, and we can all use a break. Not only that, but we need a reminder that humanity can be, and often is, better than what we see routinely on the news or on social media sites. We Are The West’s concerts are just the thing to put us back in touch with our better selves.

They had moved the location of the stage since the last time I had attended, placing it in a somewhat larger space within the garage. That was due to the ongoing pandemic, so people could spread out a bit more if they wished. That move created challenges regarding sound, of course, but last night everything sounded great. As usual, an artist’s work was featured to the sides of where the band played, and before the show, the changing light on the art created changes in the pieces, with different colors and patterns emerging. And there was a “100” balloon for the occasion.

At 9:11 p.m., the duo of Brett Hool on guitar and John Kibler on bass took the stage, and went right into the music, not bothering with any welcome or introduction. They opened with “Siren,” the lead track from the group’s 2018 album The Golden Shore. John Kibler began the song on standup bass, creating the sounds of the creaking of the wood of an old ship and a whale calling out. Soft, rather lonesome sounds. Within moments, the audience had quieted down, drawn into the atmosphere of the song. We Are The West followed that with the lead track from their most recent album, 2021’s Only One Us. For this song, “Summer,” they added a drummer, Mathias Künzli, to the group, the band expanding as they got into the set. The music was so beautiful, again a needed dose of the better side of humanity. I love the guitar line of this song. Brett than switched to electric guitar for “For Giving,” which also follows “Summer” on the album, and is one of my personal favorites. It’s a gorgeous track, feeling like a dream.

The group expanded again for “The Golden Shore,” adding Paul Cox on keys and Sylvain Carton on clarinet. This song had a cool, jazzy intro. Sylvain then switched to saxophone for “Good Luck (And All That Stuff),” the song beginning with some finger snaps, the audience joining in. There was a whole lot of joy to this song, and I was smiling under my mask. Brett then announced that while that song was one of the oldest songs they ever played at the garage, the next song was one of the newest. And for this one, they added a violin to the mix (that was Mouzhan Yousefi), while Sylvain switched to mandolin. The song, “Time Knows No Distance,” was a livelier, more rocking number, and featured some really nice stuff on keys. They followed that with “The Watchers,” with Sylvain back on saxophone. The music turned darker at a certain point, becoming more intense and powerful.

For “Cauliflower Ears,” they returned to just the duo of Brett Hool and John Kibler. This is another of the duo’s older songs, appearing on one of their early EPs. Then the others rejoined them for “Ah, Light,” another of my favorites from the most recent album. John sings lead on this one. That was followed by “Crops,” with Sylvain switching from clarinet to saxophone and Mouzhan Yousefi playing mandolin, and then “Don’t Worry About It,” which began a cappella. This one was a whole lot of fun, with a rock energy. I dig this track on the album, and in concert things were taken up several more notches, and it became a highlight of the set. They followed that with another favorite, “Only One Us,” the title track from that recent album. For this one, Sylvain played mandolin, and guitarist Karl Kerfoot sat in with them. This is one of those songs that just make everyone feel so damn good.

Brett asked the audience to sing along with the next one, and the group went into newest album’s closing song, “Hey God, I’m Alive!” Sylvain played flute on this one. There was some fantastic energy to this number last night. It felt like being surrounded by a glorious joy, a joy with a power to call favors from the heavens and change the course of reality. You know what I’m talking about. Brett then introduced the band before going into the final song of their set, “Steps To Nowhere,” which had an uplifting, cheerful vibe. The set ended at 10:21 p.m. Brett then announced that a baker had made one hundred cupcakes to celebrate the occasion of the one hundredth show. “I’m going to go have one,” he said, and quickly left the stage. The cupcakes were delicious, by the way. The Blank Tapes then delivered a really good set, with John Kibler sitting in on electric bass for most of it. It was a wonderful night. If you have not yet attended one of these parking garage concerts, I highly recommend doing so.

Set List

  1. Siren
  2. Summer
  3. For Giving
  4. The Golden Shore
  5. Good Luck (And All That Stuff)
  6. Time Knows No Distance
  7. The Watchers
  8. Cauliflower Ears
  9. Ah, Light
  10. Crops
  11. Don’t Worry About It
  12. Only One Us
  13. Hey God, I’m Alive!
  14. Steps To Nowhere

Here are a few photos from the show:

"The Golden Shore"

"The Golden Shore"
"Ah, Light"




"Only One Us"

"Only One Us"

The Blank Tapes

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