Sunday, January 21, 2024

We Are The West at 701 Santa Monica Blvd., 1-20-24 Concert Review

We Are The West performing "Open Water"
It had been a hard week for music lovers in Los Angeles, as we learned of the death of guitarist and lap steel player Paul Lacques, an integral member of I See Hawks In L.A. and Double Naught Spy Car. What was needed was a great night of music to raise our spirits. And one of We Are The West’s magical parking garage shows was just the ticket. These shows used to be monthly, but in recent times have become a bit more sporadic (singer and guitarist Brett Hool refers to them as seasonal now). This time, true to form, there was original art as backdrops to the performance area, adding more beauty and warmth to the space on what was a cool, rainy night. And there were smaller pieces for sale at the merchandise table, some really nice work by David Soto and Janel Raihl of Art Wavy.  The DJ streamed from his home this time (recovering from a trip to the hospital, as I understand), and, as usual, chose some great songs to play before the bands performed, including a good cover of “Trouble” by Father John Misty.

At 8:36 p.m., DT/IG started the show. This is a duo made up of Drew Taubenfeld on guitar and Isaiah Gage on cello, offering beautiful original instrumental music. They were also quite personable, and had a sense of humor. When a siren blared outside during their first number, they incorporated it into their music, which got the audience laughing. They focused on music from their debut album, Some Day, which was released in October and is available on vinyl (I bought a copy, but haven’t yet had a chance to listen to it). Some pieces were soothing, others dramatic, but all had beauty. Their set did include a couple of new tunes, including a solo guitar piece, and they wrapped up the set appropriately with “Rainy Day.” Their set ended at 9:11 p.m.

At 9:38 p.m., We Are The West took the stage, Brett Hool and John Kibler performing the first song, “Lights,” as a duo. “If you are searching, you will arrive,” they sang at one point in the song. And it felt like we had arrived. The music welcomed us, as their music always does, with warmth and humanity and joy. The rest of the band then joined them for the next song, “A New Haven,” one from the group’s first EP. Sylvain Carton was on saxophone, Paul Cox was on keys, and Will Van Satten was on drums. This was Will Van Satten’s first show with the band, and he did a great job. The song included a nice instrumental introduction. I love the way this music transports me. After that song Brett said: “That’s an old song. Here’s a new song.” And they went into “Open Water,” with Sylvain Carton switching from saxophone to both mandolin and flute for this one. This song had such a sweet vibe, and I loved it immediately.

Sylvain Carton switched back to saxophone for “The Watchers,” the band easing into this one. The vocals are always a big part of the group’s appeal, but Brett’s vocal performance on this song was particularly special. And the way the song built was exciting. “We’re on a mission.” Oh yes, this was one of the set’s highlights. “Here’s another new one,” Brett said after that song, and they went into “I Feel Good Today,” a song I first heard them play in September. It has a pleasant vibe, and features a catchy part on keys. That was followed by “Don’t Worry About It,” a song that was included on the band’s 2021 record Only One Us. Its hook reminds me a bit of The Cars. I love the energy of this song. Sylvain switched to clarinet for “The Golden Shore,” delivering some really nice work as that song began and then again later in the song. This song, which was the title track to the band’s debut full-length album, also featured some seriously cool by John on bass, and was another highlight of the set. That was followed by the title track to Only One Us, with Sylvain then on mandolin. This song always makes me happy, and this rendition featured some great stuff on keys near the end.

Brett dedicated “Sea Of Light (Dirty Ditty)” to driving on the Pacific Coast Highway in the wintertime, something I want to do more of. This song included a wonderful saxophone part. That was followed by “Good Luck (And All That Stuff),” one I always appreciate. They wrapped up the show with “Steps To Nowhere,” a song from Only One Us. There is so much joy in this piece, and there was a lot of joy in the room as a result. Once again, a parking garage had been transformed into a beautiful little haven, and folks didn’t even mind that it was raining as they headed out into the night afterward. The show ended at 10:33 p.m.

Set List

  1. Lights
  2. A New Haven
  3. Open Water
  4. The Watchers
  5. I Feel Good Today
  6. Don’t Worry About It
  7. The Golden Shore
  8. Only One Us
  9. Sea Of Light (Dirty Ditty)
  10. Good Luck (And All That Stuff)
  11. Steps To Nowhere

Here are a few photos from the show:


"A New Haven"
"Open Water"

"Only One Us"

"Steps To Nowhere"

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