Wild, sonic West

West by Swan heads an evening of promising, new local bands

DOn’t YOU FRET <br>Dan Greenfield of West by Swan goes for the lost chord with the help of shadowy bassist Conrad Nystrom.

Dan Greenfield of West by Swan goes for the lost chord with the help of shadowy bassist Conrad Nystrom.

Photo By Tom Angel

West by Swan, The Deer and Sleepyhead Fulcrum Records
Thurs., Jan. 22

It’s refreshing to attend a rock show that features real musicians, not just people who rely on basic rhythms, power chords and the rule of verse-chorus-verse.

It was a delight to see West by Swan play Thursday evening at Fulcrum Records. These four seasoned veterans of the local music scene have played only a handful of shows together, and they already blow the competition out of the water.

The band’s sound was complexly layered. Listening closely, I alternately heard crystalline picking from guitarist Dave Greenfield, Conrad Nystrom’s pulsing bass, and tinny cymbal accents by energetic drummer Daniel Taylor. Guitarist Dan Greenfield, Dave’s brother, complemented all of this with noise manipulations that wrapped around each song like a warm balanket.

Guitar parts sang most of the melodies, but the instrumentals were so amazing that I didn’t miss the vocal presence on most pieces.

In the tradition of such experimental guitarists as Jimi Hendrix and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Dan Greenfield knows the importance of playing out feedback and distortion almost as if they were instruments separate from his guitar. His use of white noise gave the performance a beautiful outer-space feel.

But despite the obvious talent of West by Swan, openers The Deer were not overshadowed by them.

If the members of WBS are the musical vets, The Deer are like their enthusiastic younger brothers. The trio played with a heartfelt earnestness, with soft dreamy melodies played over the more driving, passionate rhythms. Much of the audience sat on the carpeted floor, bobbing heads and singing along to the few tunes off the band’s newly released CD.

While The Deer set the stage for WBS’s exhilarating performance, the two openers set an impossibly high standard for closing act Sleepyhead to live up to. Its drummer was amazing, but because the rhythm guitarist was off most of the set, some of the songs just fell apart.