West by Swan create modern noise
Students and nine-to-fivers alike were hydrating themselves with bottled beer and free water at the end of a long semester and/or a dry work week as the Schumann Residence took the Moxie’s stage.
Guitarist and primary vocalist Scott Leftridge, bassist/vocalist Brad Nabors and drummer Jason Long played a handful of crafty, mid-tempo, moody pop songs tightly and somewhat energetically. That’s not meant to be as dismissive an assessment as it may appear, but it was the first show—for them as well the audience—and as they begin to move away from memorization to playing more loose and free, the inventive tunes will undoubtedly soar.
Justin Mcintyre has only one leg. The lead singer/guitarist for the Bellingham, Wash. three-piece The Narrows moved quite easily onto a stool in the middle of the tiny stage, let his metal crutches fall against his eight 12-inch speakers and launched into the band’s epic psychedelic song “Stride” from the double-LP Alligator. Sean McKee’s bass went to-and-fro’ like a lurching tide, with Justin and drummer Matt Mcintyre riding the choppy rhythms of the intro before settling down into a 20 minute or so float with Justin’s scratchy muttering keeping them company on the ride.
West by Swan is huge. A little too huge for the brick walls and overworked P.A. of Moxie’s perhaps, but impressive as closers this evening despite the handicaps.
The mid-set "Swarm" is the perfect example of this Chico band’s rushing noise. Layers upon layers of sound are pushed to the back and pulled forward in dynamic patterns that cause tension, release, comfort and always surprise. But it was the finale that was really surprising. A new song, with bassist Conrad Nystrom singing and Dan Greenfield clapping furiously during the breaks before opening steam vents of guitar insanity, West by Swan hinted at an even broader scope to their sonic expressions, one that brings emotional investments to the fore along with their musicianship and songwriting prowess.