Jake Phillips

Rosi Golan Lead Balloon CD Release Show at Bowery Ballroom

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I’m a very big fan of Rosi Golan. I love The Drifter and the Gypsy (until last week, Rosi’s most current CD). I love her side-project, The Open Sea (with Ari Hest). Their EP is extraordinary. The chance to see Rosi perform is good enough reason to come out.

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Add to that a full band, an amazing lineup before her and an actual new CD to celebrate (Lead Balloon) and there was no doubt this would be a great night out.

It was!

Rosi is a great songwriter. Independent of that, she has one of the most amazing voices. There’s a clarity that’s hard to describe, but I’m going to try. Many great singers have some sort of halo to their voices. In other words, the center of the sound is the note they want to hit, but if you looked at it with a spectrum analyzer, the wave-form would be fatter, touching other notes around the one they’re singing.

Other’s have a laser-like quality, which will have the clarity I noted, but can also sound shrill, even painful at times. Rosi’s voice is just right. On most songs, there’s a sweetness to the voice, even if the lyrics are ripping your heart out at the same time. In fact, she joked that she was surprised to see some people dancing in the back of Bowery Ballroom, since most of her songs cause people to cry or hold hands. Smile

The set was great. Most of the songs were from the new CD. Rosi was kind enough to throw in a couple from The Drifter and the Gypsy, most notably Think of Me, which I could listen to all day, every day. Here’s the set list:

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Rosi has a regular accompanist, Jake Phillips, who performs with her (at every show?) for the past 4.5 years. He’s an excellent guitarist, and has a really good voice. Most of the time he sings harmony with Rosi, but occasionally, he’ll sing lead on a verse. I think he sang one of the verses on Hazy (the other song from The Drifter and the Gypsy). On the CD, Rosi sang with William Fitzsimmons (that reference was for you, Kevin). Winking smile

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Jake has a show of his own at 7pm tonight at Rockwood Music Hall. I’m not in NYC, so I can’t attend, and if you’re reading this, you probably can’t either, since I’m posting this a day too late (my next post will reveal why this one is late).

I bought Lead Balloon at the show, between Ian Axel and Rosi’s sets. I’ve listened to it twice so far and I really like it a lot. I’m sure I’ll grow to love it in a few more listens. There are a number of songs that grabbed me instantly, but none more than Fly Away. It’s my Think of Me from this CD.

Rosi was accompanied by a full band, but she also had a special guest star on many of her numbers (I’d guess more than 1/2).

Allie Moss is a headliner in her own right, in addition to being a member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band (singing harmony and playing guitar). On Rosi’s set, she sang harmony so beautifully.

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Rosi closed the show by bringing up another special guest. If you read the paragraph above and substitute the name Bess Rogers for Allie Moss, it would all be 100% accurate!

Rosi asked the crowd to scrunch up closer to the stage and to be as quiet as they (we) could be. She unplugged her acoustic guitar and Rosi, Bess and Allie sang with no microphones. They performed Can’t Go Back. We were lucky enough to be right up against the stage (where you’ll always find us if we can secure that spot) so it felt like the three of them were singing just for us.

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Wow is an inadequate word to describe what an amazing job these ladies did. Oh yeah, the song is really beautiful as well, and it’s on Lead Balloon.

The band, left-to-right on the stage:

Daniel Mintseris on electronic keyboards. Excellent job throughout the set. In a silly small-world story, I haven’t been that active on Google+ yet, but I’ve been slowly accumulating people into various circles. The morning of the show (Tuesday), I put Daniel in my Musicians circle and he added me back (so at least he has a Google+ account). I didn’t know I’d be seeing Daniel perform that night! Smile

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Elliot Jacobson on drums. Elliot is simply awesome, always. I’ve described him before as having a reputation as a hitter (he strikes the drums hard!). I’ve also said that it’s not true, when it’s not called for. On most of Rosi’s numbers, it wasn’t called for. Sure enough, Elliot was amazing, subtle when he needed to be, upbeat when appropriate, etc.

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Tony Maceli on electric and upright bass. Consistently one of my favorite bass players, including this show. Tony split the bass duties nearly evenly between the electric and the upright, nailing the bass lines on both. On the upright, he mostly plucked, but at least in one song I noticed him switching to the bow, then back to plucking. He’s a bit more understated (by choice) than other bass players on the scene, but the sounds he produces are the correct ones.

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A great finish to an already great night. The Spring Standards opened the show, with Ian Axel performing after them. Let’s pick a date and do it all again real soon.

For the entire night we stood next to Casey Hicks, a writer for Short and Sweet NYC. She had just posted an interview with Rosi Golan that day, conducted over the weekend.

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Here’s the Kevin, mentioned above:

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Rosi Golan at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We’ve seen Rosi Golan a number of times, but only one was a full set of her own music (at Jammin’ Java, covered in this post). The other times were either a few songs at a benefit (or as a guest), or with Ari Hest, performing as The Open Sea (their side-project together). Even at Jammin’ Java, Rosi was opening for William Fitzsimmons. Last night she headlined her own set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

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Rather than force myself to be creative and describe Rosi in different words, here’s what I had to say about her at Jammin’ Java:

Rosi Golan has an extraordinary voice. Range, power, clarity even at the softest moments, all deliciously delivered. She is an excellent songwriter too. Her lyrics are sticky as are her melodies.

I would add that many of her songs (most?) have a dreamy quality to them (in the sense that it’s really easy to completely get lost in them).

Last night she played a 10-song set. Four of the songs were from her current CD, The Drifter and the Gypsy (an incredible album). Most (all?) of the rest were from her upcoming CD, Lead Balloon, likely out sometime in May (just my guess). I already look forward to it, Rosi is very consistent.

Jake Phillips accompanied Rosi on all but the first and last numbers (though he stood on stage with guitar in hand during the opener). He accompanied her at Jammin’ Java as well, so I knew in advance that I would love his guitar play (I did, both times now) and his harmonies with her are very nice (if a bit too soft).

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Jason Reeves happened to be in town (and at Rockwood) and was called up as a special (surprise) guest to sing Flicker with Rosi, a song they co-wrote while Rosi was out in LA working on the new record. Jake joined in creating a lovely three-part harmony.

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Also in the audience was Billy Hawn. Billy is an excellent drummer. He tours with Jason Reeves, but we saw him supporting ambeR Rubarth at Joe’s Pub, back in 2009. Rosi is friends with Billy and dedicated one of my favorite Rosi songs to him, Think of Me.

It was an excellent set, delivered wonderfully.

The only hiccup in the evening is the increasingly common loud talking that goes on in Rockwood 2. Even when 100 people tried to shush the dozen talkers, the silence rarely lasted more than a minute. A musician friend of mine recently told me that he greatly prefers to play next door at Rockwood 1 (even though Stage 2 is much bigger and more beautiful), because he says that the rudeness/noise at Stage 2 is just overwhelming.

I partially blame the club (even though I love nearly everything about Rockwood, both venues, and everyone who works there). First, after being warned a few times, they should ask people to take their conversations outside and enforce it if they have to. Second, they booked a very different kind of act before Rosi (these aren’t opening acts, they’re simply separate sets, back-to-back). A fair number of people stayed for Rosi’s set, but it appears that they stayed to socialize, not to listen to the music.

There are no trivial solutions to this problem, but something needs to be tried, since real fans are showing their frustration more often and more passionately. After an audience member loudly said to Rosi “I’m trying to enjoy your music, but it’s really loud at the bar”, Rosi made a few jokes and tried to get people to settle down. It was only partially effective and there’s a big danger of a backlash when a performer tries to control an unwilling crowd. Oh well…

Today, on my way to the dentist (and in the chair under heavy novacaine), I listened to all of The Drifter and the Gypsy and Little Apple EP (by The Open Sea). I’m only now regaining some feeling in my lower lip and jaw, but Rosi got me through it just fine! Smile

Rosi Golan and William Fitzsimmons at Jammin Java

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I’ve waited way too long to catch a Rosi Golan set. I’ve seen her perform a song or two here and there. I’ve even caught a complete set of her performing her new side project The Open Sea with Ari Hest (I can’t wait for the upcoming EP, the two of them are magic together!).

I love Rosi’s current CD The Drifter and the Gypsy and am looking forward to her upcoming CD as well.

One of the few benefits of living in NY and working in VA (say what?) is that we get more opportunities to catch our favorite musicians. When I noticed that Rosi was playing at Jammin’ Java (a venue we really like a lot) I made sure that our July trip south would include that date. We brought three friends with us to enjoy the show.

Rosi Golan has an extraordinary voice. Range, power, clarity even at the softest moments, all deliciously delivered. She is an excellent songwriter too. Her lyrics are sticky as are her melodies.

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For those of you who haven’t heard her, I would liken her somewhat to The Weepies in overall feel and sound. That said, while I love The Weepies, Rosi’s voice is incalculably more beautiful.

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Rosi accompanies herself nicely on the guitar. Last night, she was supported on every number by Jake Phillips on guitar and harmony. Jake was amazing on both and really enhanced the sound (not that Rosi needs help).

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Rosi performed at least four songs from The Drifter and the Gypsy CD, including Think of Me, which I play very often and was hoping to hear live. Thanks Rosi! 🙂

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Rosi was on for roughly 40 minutes, every one of them wonderful.

William Fitzsimmons was the headliner. Rosi has been opening for William on much of his current tour, but not every night. I normally cover the headliner first, but since we specifically went to see Rosi, I reversed my usual order.

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This was our first time seeing William. In fact, we only heard about him because I was tracking Rosi.

William plays the guitar beautifully (more on that in a bit) and sings nicely. He’s extremely mellow in his delivery. Surprisingly so, because when he speaks, he has a deep rich voice, but when he sings, it’s an octave higher and pretty soft.

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William is very funny (not just to my taste, because most of the sold-out crowd was chucking or guffawing along with me). He’s extremely self-deprecating. I am sure that I would go see him if he was a stand-up comic.

As he himself will tell you, most of his songs are angst-ridden, not exactly pick-me-ups. They’re delivered really well, but given his soft vocals, it can be hard for newcomers to pick up all the words (clearly, a very integral part of the William Fitzsimmons experience!).

In contrast, I am flabbergasted by how well Rosi enunciates even when nearly whispering (check out the crispness of the last “s” in “ghosts”, which I couldn’t believe I could hear each times she sang/whispered it!).

Because of the above, a number of William’s songs feel similar (when the lyrics should be the big differentiators). Still, I enjoyed the full set, without wishing for any song to just be over.

Back to the guitar. Jake Phillips also accompanied William on all but two songs. The two of them were mesmerizing on the guitars on each and every song. They complement each other beautifully, with William starting most songs off with a finger-picking style that hooks you instantly, and then Jake dancing in and around that with a combination flat-picking and finger-picking lead/harmony.

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Jake also sang harmony with William (very nicely), but he was a bit softer than he was with Rosi. Even if neither of them had sung the entire evening, watching and listening to the two of them play guitar together would have been worth the price of admission. Jake also played banjo on one number, which made for a very interesting sound with William’s guitar play.

Rosi joined the two of them for a four songs. The first was a Rosi number that William had recorded with her a while ago, Hazy (he’s featured on it on the above-mentioned CD). Rosi also came back out for the last song in a two-song encore to close the show.

Before that last song, William asked Rosi to be the applause-o-meter for a contest to see who played the guitar better, he or Jake. When he asked the audience about Jake first, the applause was deafening, so it was obvious that asking about himself was going to be somewhere between amusing and embarrassing.

But, here’s the thing. If Jake was an 8 on a scale of 1-10, then William was a 7.8. Meaning, the deafening win for Jake was not even the slightest knock on William’s play, just an acknowledgement that Jake was highlighted a bit more, and didn’t disappoint throughout both Rosi and William’s sets.

William Fitzsimmons can definitely hold his own on the guitar, and did so extremely well on his two completely solo numbers, and on every other number when he picked the main theme (which Jake adorned).

A wonderful night out. I can finally scratch off my list the need to see Rosi Golan performing a full set of her own creations. That said, it doesn’t mean that I won’t want to see a lot more, just that it won’t be on my bucket list. 🙂

Here’s a shot of Rosi with her manager, David Margolis:

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