Material: Westerner offer a completely entertaining blend of precision-played psychedelic glam rock. Funky beats and occasional electronics are applied to a showy indie-rock style that can either be danced to or appreciated on a purely musical level. It’s a compliment to say that their music is hard to compare to anybody else’s, but this is definitely life-force-celebrating music, both exuberant and infectious. Some very savvy pop tunes are deftly mixed with space-rock elements.
Musicianship: The band seems to tap endless creative mileage from a basic rock setup––two guitars, bass and drums––with ace drummer Shadow sometimes adding electronic percussion and samples. If you play a 5-string bass, you better be good, and indeed, bassist Shaman is super competent, holding down a rock solid rhythm while alternating between both funky runs and chordings. Lead vocalist Enigma doesn’t miss a beat playing intricate fills while singing (and jumping!), and the tandem guitar work with Volto must be seen to be believed. As a twin-guitar team, they show the expertise of champion acts, from Radiohead to Blue Oyster Cult to Funkadelic. Volto, a master of slide and wah, commands a pedalboard of expertly deployed effects, and coolly replaced a cable mid-song, where less savvy musicians would have panicked.
Performance: What catapults this band into a true phenomenon is their live performance. Skyscraper-tall Enigma is resplendent in a white tailored suit with fuzzy leggings. His rapport with the audience is great (Westerner have a goofy schtick about being a sci-fi love cult), and his theatrical gestures and jumps are as good as his playing and singing. Wingmen Volto and Shaman are nattily and psychedelically garbed and don't miss a beat enticing the crowd to participate and dance, while delivering solid backing vocals. And drummer Shadow gets extra credit points for playing the entire set while wearing a gold mask.
Summary: Westerner are an act whose time has arrived. Like Athena springing fully formed from Zeus’ skull, they seem to have appeared from nowhere to emerge as one of the best bands in Los Angeles. They fairly ooze star power with their colorful and kinetic sound and performance, so catch them before they leave the galaxy!
The Players: Cooper Bombadil (“Enigma”), lead vocals, guitar, E-bow; Javier Olmedo (“Volto”), guitar, slide, backup vocals; Tim Shireman (“Shaman”), bass, backup vocals; Mike Gattshall (“Shadow”), drums, electronics.
Photo by Dave Arnson
Westerner - "Soft Playground"
Looking to get your music reviewed in the magazine? Click HERE!