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As the sun set over the glorious golden shore of the Pacific ocean, The California Consortium of Song flowed into motion. As the gaze of amber rays gave way to night on the west side, eager fans gathered in the round at the historic Santa Monica Playhouse, four blocks from the beach, to witness the pomp and circumstance of the second edition of Playhouse Sessions, a semi-annual concert production hosted in conjunction with The Miracle Foundation, which provides Arts Education & Community Outreach in the Greater Los Angeles area.
Armed with an acoustic guitar and a sublime voice, Boston born/Nashville transplant Hayley Reardon opened the evening with her sweetly painted introspection delivered with effervescent conviction. Treating the audience to heartfelt anecdotes before each song, highlights included “Everything Else,” “Bethany,” “Forgiveness,” “200 Years Old,” a song she wrote for her beloved grandmother, who had a lifelong love of Patsy Cline, and a poignant, thought-provoking, update of our country’s cherished classic, “America The Beautiful,” filtered through the lens of recent history, a modern state of the union. When it gets released in time for the 4th of July, it’s sure to become an anthem. Being her first ever show in LA, she also dipped into her catalog, offering breathtaking renditions of “Ghost” and “Would You Wait” from her 2016 album, “Good,” which Performer dubbed, “Brilliantly moving folk/pop with a lyrical depth and soul.”
Next up were intrepid sound stylists We Are The West, an experimental folk collective that reach beyond the setting sun to create an eclectic symphonic landscape. Melding upbeat pop, psychedelic folk, chamber music and spatial dimension, the music of We Are The West reminds one of heaven, as it nourishes the mind, body and spirit. Beginning with an aptly historical nod, reinterpreting the 19th century ballad, “The Lakes of Ponchartrain,” the band quickly soared into the upper echelon of communion. Led by co-founders Brett Hool (vocals/guitar) and John Kibler (upright bass/vocals), along with drummer Corey Fogel (Julia Holter, Mirah, The Mountain Goats), the rapt audience was instantly spellbound by the transcendent performance of much of their transportive album, The Golden Shore. Over the course of their mystical expedition, Low Anthem, Zeppelin, Bowie, and Ennio Morricone, all delightfully came to mind. From the soft embrace of “Siren,” to the majestic esoteric resonance of “Sea of Light (Dirty Ditty),” to the vivid waves of “For Me, For You,” to the captivating caress of “The Golden Shore,” to the theatrical dynamism of “More Machine Than Man,” We Are The West sailed the high seas of ecstasy, elegantly.
Actor Rob Morrow, known for nuanced performances on acclaimed shows such as Northern Exposure, Billions, and Numb3rs, closed out the festivities with power-packed proclivity. Opening with an acoustic number, the affecting “What Have We Become,” the band soon racheted things up to ten as Morrow’s sidemen unleashed serious acumen. Flanked by lead guitarist Carlos Calvo, a Hollywood Film & TV Coach who’s taught Adam Levine, David Duchovny, Ambyr Childers, and others, to play guitar, the band is a well-oiled machine, with mind-melting machinations emanating from keyboardist Jason Libs, bassist Carlos Costa, and drummer Sam Aliano, known for his work with Billy Sheehan, Nuno Bettencourt, and Slash.
Summits of their sixty-minute set included the Paul McCartney-flavored “Good As Dead,” the moody Eagles-tinged “Man With Many Names,” the soul-soothing “Then It’s Gone,” the feel-good, finger-snapping shuffle of “The New, New Face,” the emotional tour-du-force, “Tyranny of Beauty,” which has a gorgeous Grateful Dead sounding outro, and the George Thorogood boogie of “Out and About,” which Morrow told the audience, was featured in an episode of the TV show, The Fosters.
For the final frontier of the rhapsodic journey of consorting with the extraordinary, Rob Morrow and brethren blazed through a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In the Dark,” which saw every band member flex their virtuosity, and then finished with an all-hands-on-deck, free-for-all for The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Hayley joined on harmony vocals on the chorus and Brett and John, from We Are The West, took a verse and played guitar. The crowd and crowned became one as pure joy abound, and in that moment, the universe zeroed into focus. These are the moments that make it all worth it. House lights up, good vibes imbibed. Friends, family, music and community, we left with the only thing we need. Exile from the mainstream.