Katie Costello

The Open Sea and Katie Costello at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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The Open Sea is a duo comprised of Ari Hest and Rosi Golan. They were secretly announced on March 24th, 2010 in a show that we attended. We are fans of both Ari and Rosi separately, but on that night I had an instant love affair with their side project, The Open Sea.

TheOpenSea

The first show was at Rockwood Music Hall, while last night’s was at the new(er) Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (right next door to the still-going-strong original).

Waiting six months to hear them again felt like an eternity. That could lead to expectations that are difficult to meet. They met, they exceeded, they conquered (at least me, but I’ll bet that the majority of the stuffed-to-the-gills crowd felt the same way!).

Last Tuesday (9/14/2010) The Open Sea released their first EP. I decided not to buy it right away, hoping to purchase a physical copy last night (to put more money in their hands, get it signed, etc.). Unfortunately, for now, it’s only a digital release, so this morning I grabbed my copy. Awesome!

For those that didn’t get to see them, buy the download and experience the magic for yourself!

Ari Hest sang and played acoustic guitar. He was the primary musical support, playing on all but one song. Most of them were beautifully finger-picked with a bit of rhythm and flat-picking thrown in for good measure. Ari has a smoky/raspy voice (or at least did last night). It blends beautifully with Rosi’s.

AriHestGuitar

Rosi Golan sang and played acoustic guitar. Rosi has one of the most extraordinary voices I’ve ever heard (I’ll say it every time I get a chance to write about her!). Laser-like crispness, very wide range, soothing and exhilarating at various times. Rosi played the guitar on a few numbers.

RosiGolanSinging RosiGolanGuitar

Both are accomplished songwriters and the five song EP shows that their collaborations are at least as good as their individual efforts. I love Rosi’s current CD The Drifter and the Gypsy. Ari has a CD coming out early next year (can’t wait to hear it, as it’s produced by the wonderful Alex Wong).

In addition to playing the songs from the new EP they played two cover songs (Rosi picked a Ray LaMontagne song and Ari picked an Everly Brothers one, which was a huge treat for Lois and me).

They performed the title cut from Ari’s upcoming CD and Rosi debuted a song from her soon-to-be-recorded CD, called Lead Balloon. It could be a top 10 Country Hit (IMHO) instantly. Even if you hate Country, you’ll love this song!

I know I’m fawning, but I can’t stop, so one more platitude. I never want their sets to end. There, I said it.

Daniel Mintseris played the piano on a few numbers including one where Ari and Rosi sang without playing guitar. Daniel also plays piano on the EP. He’s excellent and complemented their sound extremely well.

DanielMintserasPiano

Here is the set list:

TheOpenSeaSetList

Katie Costello performed the set before The Open Sea. On June 29th we saw Katie perform at Rockwood 2 and I wrote about it in this post. I agree with everything I said then (whew), but I have a more nuanced opinion now that I’m getting a little more familiar with Katie’s music.

KatieCostelloPiano

First, a few differences from that performance. Katie didn’t perform any solo numbers last night (she book-ended the show with then in June). The drummer was different (more on that in the band section in a minute).

Katie has an excellent voice. Not only is it powerful and clear with good range, but as I noted in the last post, it can change in character as well. On more Jazzy numbers she can command a smoky quality (that feels completely natural). On more upbeat pop numbers it’s crystal clear. She also plays the piano very well.

KatieCostelloSinging

Last night I was able to pay attention a bit more to the shifts in style. I found the pop stuff to be more engaging and suited to the setup (her voice and the band). On the slower numbers, it was hard for me to keep focused. I like a ton of mellow stuff, so it’s not a generic problem (for me).

Katie also tried to banter more last night than the previous show. I’m all for the effort, as it’s one of the things that makes live shows qualitatively different than listening to a CD. Unfortunately, while it’s clear that Katie has a quick mind and a deep wit, most of the banter struck me as awkward at best. It will come with time, I’m sure. I’m equally sure that some portion of the audience found it awesome and/or endearing.

Katie’s band from left-to-right on stage:

Daniel Mintseris on keyboards and glockenspiel. Last time I had trouble differentiating Daniel. This time no such difficulty. Daniel did an excellent job. Given that Katie was on the grand piano, Daniel’s keyboards were more organ-ish in nature (like Patrick Firth was for Rachel Platten). He also played a type of accordion that sits on the table and is played with one hand while the other operates a bellows-type mechanism.

DanielMintseras DanielMintserasGlockenspiel DanielMintserasUprightAccordion

Tony Maceli on electric and upright bass. We always enjoy Tony’s bass playing. Understated and solid no matter who he is supporting. On the one song where he played the upright, he used a bow.

TonyMaceliUprightBass

Given how tight the stage setup was, he stepped off the stage and played right in front of the entrance to the green room. On Katie’s last number Tony played the acoustic guitar (first time in our experience) and then halfway through the song he switched back to electric bass.

TonyMaceliGuitar

Doug Yowell on drums. Doug did a good job throughout the set. In a not-so-small irony, the only other time we saw Doug play was for Vienna Teng. When? The same night we saw The Open Sea for the first time. Vienna’s set (oops, I mean Linz Ho’s set) was right before The Open Sea.

DougYowell DougYowell2

Rich Hinman on electric and pedal steel guitar. As I mentioned last time, Rich is really good on both. Last night he was incredible on the pedal steel. Some of his leads on the electric were great, but a few times it felt to me like he was stepping on Katie’s vocals. He’s still incredible, but they might need some work on their arrangements.

RichHinmanPedalSteelGuitar

Here is Katie’s set list:

KatieCostelloSetList

Another great night at Rockwood. Tonight will definitely be another great night there. 🙂

Ian Axel at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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We’ve seen Ian Axel perform nine times prior to last night. The very first time was at Rockwood Music Hall, on October 23rd 2009. He blew us away. As hard as it is to imagine, he’s never disappointed us, even with a wide variety of venues and setups (solo, different band members, etc.).

So, it’s as much of a surprise to me as it will be to you when I say (pretty definitively) that last night’s show was the best of all of them (though the worst was awesome as well). There are a number of reasons for that which I’ll mention, but at every show there are always intangibles (and I’m not allowed to discuss those under penalty of law).

Ian quit his job six weeks ago at Apple to become a full-time musician. As scary as that decision had to be, it is also freeing. I’m sure that his confidence builds with every show and that last night won’t stand for long as our best Ian Axel experience.

Ian was signed to a brand new record label a few weeks back. That label has a distribution deal with Sony, so there’s a very good chance that many more people will be hearing about Ian and listening to his wonderful CD: This is the New Year.

Ian debuted a new song that he performed with Chad Vaccarino (they co-wrote it) without the rest of the band. People were still buzzing after the show about that song.

IanAxelChadVaccarino

Finally (for the tangibles), last night’s venue. We love Rockwood Music Hall and have seen many shows there. Last night was our first time at their new venue (right next door), named Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. It’s a larger room (not dramatically), with a small upstairs area as well. I think the capacity is roughly 200 people (which would make it roughly twice as large as the original Rockwood, which is still very much a thriving venue).

There is a fantastic Grand Piano at the new stage (there is an old one next door), and Ian rocked it hard. The sound system is evolving (so I’m told by other regulars), but it was awesome last night. I have no doubt it will be consistently great shortly, because it’s always great next door. The people who run Rockwood are music lovers, and they’ll do whatever needs to be done to nail this.

IanAxel

On to the show itself. Ian had a full band with one substitution. Chris Kuffner normally plays lead guitar for Ian. This past Saturday night, Chris married Bess Rogers so his excuse for not showing up last night is reasonably solid. 🙂

Adam Christgau on drums and harmony vocals. I can never say enough about Adam. I couldn’t see him even for a second as the piano was blocking him completely (Lois raised her arm to capture the photo below). That said, I could hear every connection of a stick to a drum, cymbal or drum rim, and it was Adam at his finest.

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Chris Anderson on bass and harmony vocals. As always, Chris is a highlight of any Ian set, matched perfectly in sound and energy to Ian. Just another in a long string of wonderful performances.

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Dan Hindman on electric guitar (filling in for Chris Kuffner). I can’t find a good individual link for Dan, but there are a number of YouTube videos of him playing with Martin Rivas and others. He did a nice job but wasn’t highlighted.

DanHindman

A friend of Ian’s, Shockey (sp?) Chocky, joined on stage for the ever fun Girl I Got a Thing. This is the third time that Shockey has joined the band for this song while we’ve been there. I am convinced that Shockey Chocky has the best job in music. He comes on stage for one song, drinks whiskey while the band plays, goes nuts with a tambourine when Ian sings about a tambourine, and leads the audience in singing along with “Girl I Got a Thing for You, Na na na na, Woah wo, Na na na na, Woah wo, etc.”

Shockey

In addition to debuting their new song, Chad Vaccarino joined Ian (with the full band) for two other songs. First, the crowd favorite title song from Ian’s CD, This is the New Year. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to have 200 people get goose bumps at the same time, so get yourself to a show and find out first hand.

ChadVaccarino

Right after that song, Mike Campbell also joined them for Shorty Don’t Wait (the only song that Ian played the ukulele on). This has quickly become one of my favorite Ian/Chad songs. Chad has a wonderful voice, and he nails this song each and every time.

IanAxelMikeCampbellChadVaccarino

Ian played Say Something solo on the piano. I love that song. When I first heard it, he used to play it on the ukulele. Even though it’s awesome when he does it on the piano, every time he he plays it on the piano, my friend and I look at each other (on the second note of the intro) and smile knowingly, because we both miss hearing it on the ukulele, where there is a stark soulfulness that we love.

The show was sold out and the place was packed. A friend of ours was turned away at the door. 🙁

Opening the show was Katie Costello. We’ve only seen Katie sit in on two songs with Greg Holden at a previous Ian Axel show (Canal Room), so we didn’t know what we were in for.

KatieCostello

Katie has a lovely voice, nice range, wonderful smokiness whenever appropriate for the song. She accompanies herself very well on the piano. She opened and closed the show solo. All of the songs in between were with a full band. On one number, she sang without playing the piano, accompanied by the band.

Katie’s band was:

Mark Stepro on drums. This was a surprise (a very pleasant one). We’ve seen Mark once before playing with Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale. That night, he played guitar, so I didn’t know he was also a good drummer.

MarkStepro

Tony Maceli on electric bass. We love Tony, so the pleasant surprise here wasn’t how good he always is (we know that), but rather that he was playing with Katie!

TonyMaceli

Daniel Mintseris played electric keyboards. He wasn’t highlighted much so I didn’t get a good sense.

DanielMintseris

Rich Hinman on electric guitar and pedal steel guitar. This was the first time we’ve seen Rich. I was very impressed with his play on both the guitar and the pedal steel guitar. Reading his bio I see that he plays with other groups I’m not familiar with, but have heard wonderful things about (specifically, the Madison Square Gardeners). I very much look forward to catching Rich in the near future.

RichHinman

Greg Holden joined Katie for one song. The harmony was beautiful, and Greg did a very nice job when he sang a bit of solo as well.

GregHolden

I enjoyed Katie’s set.

Sandwiched in between Katie and Ian was Matt Duke. We’ve seen Matt once before, when he opened for Ian and Joey Ryan. I enjoyed last night’s set more than the previous one. I find the numbers when he sings more softly more compelling and there were much more of those last night. He does an excellent job of accompanying himself on the guitar.

MattDuke

Rosi Golan joined Matt for one number. I really love her voice, and they sang beautifully together. An extremely nice surprise!

MattDukeRosiGolan

Ian Axel and Greg Holden at Canal Room

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This one is gonna be long (surprise!), so let’s bottom line it for the impatient:

  1. Ian AxelCrazy good!
  2. Greg Holden – Very good, would have been nice if some in the crowd were more attentive.
  3. Katie Costello – Very good, need to hear more and I want to.
  4. Honey Larochelle – Delightful surprise.
  5. Kenny Muhammad – was a guest on one Honey Larochelle number. He’s incredible.
  6. Band Members – See below, if you have patience. 🙂

OK, I formally give you permission to bail on the rest of this, here’s your hall pass. 🙂

We saw Ian Axel once before at Rockwood Music Hall, and I covered that show in this post. We were so blown away that night that we’ve been eagerly awaiting another opportunity to see Ian perform. It turned out to be a 56 day wait, an eternity from our perspective.

IanAxelKeyboards

Ian has a new CD coming out on January 5th, and we are impatiently waiting for that as well. Ian Axel is an extraordinary singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and he isn’t half-bad on the ukulele either.

IanAxelUkulele

There were a few differences last night. At Rockwood, Ian played a grand piano, last night, electric keyboards. Who cares, he’s brilliant on both. He added an electric guitar to the mix, nice. Rockwood is tiny. While they can pack it in for a popular show (I guess between 80-100 people can become good friends quickly), it’s still a super-intimate place, generally filled with super-fans only. Canal Room is a bit more spacious (still pretty intimate) but audiences can be a bit more distracting, not there purely for the music.

From a selfish perspective, I’m glad Ian is still playing intimate clubs (our favorite experience). He has the talent to fill and captivate venues like the Beacon Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, etc. I know he’s not well known enough to fill them yet, and that’s a shame (for him and his eventual fans), but a short-term win for his existing fans. That big-venue day is coming, mark my words.

Backing up Ian, from left-to-right:

Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and some vocal backup. Chris is better known for his bass playing than his guitar. I didn’t know that, but some people pointed out to me after the show that he’s a bass god, and listening to the pieces on his MySpace page convince me that’s dead on. I really couldn’t make out his guitar or vocals too well last night. It’s clear that his fellow musicians have enormous respect for him, and that’s more than good enough for me!

ChrisKuffner

Adam Christgau on the drums and some vocal backup. I’ve written about Adam numerous times. I loved his drumming from the first time we saw him, at the Canal Room (like last night), playing with The Paper Raincoat. My respect for him has only grown since then.

AdamChristgauLaughing

I mentioned in the last Ian post that Adam changes styles to match the artist/music, and that Ian brings out a much more dramatic flair in Adam. As much as I love the sophistication of the drumming for The Paper Raincoat, on many Ian numbers Adam can really let loose (power, speed, etc.), and it’s delightful (visually and aurally).

AdamChristgau

Also, as mentioned in the last post, the only reason we discovered Ian is because Adam was playing with him, and we made the assumption that if Adam was bothering, Ian had to be worth listening to. For that alone we’ll forever be grateful to Adam!

Chris Anderson played electric bass and some vocal backup. Chris also played bass for Ian at Rockwood. Chris impressed me at Rockwood, but the stage was super tight there and Ian played half the numbers without the band. Last night Chris got to stretch out a bit more (he has a ton of infectious energy on stage) and we both enjoyed every note he played.

ChrisAnderson

Ian brought Greg Holden out toward the end of the set to sing with him (Ian sat in a bit on Greg’s set as well). The two of them work well together and I’m sure they’ll be appearing on the same bill in the future, as they were the two times we’ve seen them so far.

Ian also played one number on his ukulele accompanied by Michael Campbell (sorry, couldn’t find a link for him) on the guitar and harmony vocals. Excellent!

MichaelCampbell1 MichaelCampbell2

Greg Holden did a roughly 40 minute set before he turned the stage over to Ian. When he came out, backing him were Chris Kuffner, Ian Axel, Adam Christgau, and a different bassist, Kyle McCammon (no decent photo). Kyle was very good on the bass, and was replaced by Chris Anderson for Ian’s set. He had another gig at 11pm at The National Underground, so he had a busy night. 🙂

Greg was quite good playing the guitar and singing. His voice is somewhere between a light raspiness and a bit of smokiness (now you know exactly what he sounds like). He writes good songs.

GregHolden1

If I had to pick a slight nit, a number of his songs tend to repeat the hook a few times too many. They’re good hooks, but he could work a bit to flesh the song out. I said that last time too, and he obviously has rewritten his songs just yet. 😉

Greg opened the set solo, even though all of the band members were on stage and in position. He played an untitled song that he debuted on YouTube, a song co-written with Joey Ryan. Lois has suggested that they name the song Nothing But a Memory (we’ll see if they listen to her!). Greg did a great job solo, but I was marginally surprised that he didn’t enlist Ian to sing the Joey part. We love the song, and listen to it many times.

As much as we love the song, and as excellent a job as Greg did with it last night, I’ll digress here to make two separate points, both regarding this song.

I’ll cover the opening act shortly, but as I’ve said in the past, the art of booking an opening act can be hit or miss in general. I’m of the opinion that the genre should be a match so that fans of the headliner will at least be hearing music that is likely to please, or at worst, not displease. Others might argue that it’s an opportunity to broaden your horizon, because you’ll still get to hear what you specifically came for.

Last night, Honey Larochelle opened, and the genre was quite different. It was very high energy and very loud, and ended on a very high note, with the crowd rising to their feet.

Even though there were 15 minutes between sets, the buzz was still swirling throughout the room when Greg took the stage. The first point is that Greg probably should have started with a full-band song, not a solo acoustic guitar effort, because a good portion of the audience wasn’t prepared for such a mellow opening, especially with the full band just sitting there. To repeat, we love the song he played, and we loved his version of it, it just should have been further down the setlist in my opinion.

A separate but related point is that there were way too many people in the crowd who used the discordant mellowness as an excuse to talk quite loudly. I’ve faulted many people in the past when it’s an isolated couple or few people who talk during a performance, but this was perhaps a quarter to a third of the people, so I think they all thought that it was OK to do so, and that Greg was just background music. It was rude, and Greg didn’t deserve it.

Of course, when the full band played, people’s attention was drawn to the stage. That’s another reason why I think Greg could have controlled that situation a bit better by ordering his set differently.

Back to the main action. After playing a few songs with the full band, Greg invited Katie Costello on stage (and the band left, except for Chris who played one song with them). They played two songs together, with Katie playing a bit of keyboards but mostly singing with Greg.

KatieCostello

On the first number, Katie seemed to be straining during the first verse. Greg did a very classy thing. He stopped the song mid-stream and apologized for starting it in the wrong key! He slid the capo down two frets and started again. This time Katie hit every note beautifully, and they pulled the song off without another hitch.

I’ve been listening to her streaming from her site (linked above) for quite a while now. I like her a lot. She’s playing tomorrow (Sunday, December 20th) at Rockwood Music Hall at 11pm. We already have tickets to see the amazing Cherish the Ladies in Pawling, NY tomorrow night, so we won’t get to see Katie just yet, but if you’re in NYC tomorrow, and you’re a night owl, do yourself a favor and get over to Rockwood.

Greg played a bit more with the band, and a few more solos as well. Over all, a very nice set.

Opening the show was Honey Larochelle, backed by a four piece band and two backup singers. On her MySpace page she describes her music as Soul / Folk Rock / R&B. Yes, she’s all that, and more.

HoneyLarochelle2 HoneyLarochelle

Excellent voice, wide range, bubbly spirit, showmanship. All four band members are very good, as are the backup singers, so the whole ensemble works well together.

Honey announced that she would be doing a bunch of Christmas songs (and I’ll explain in a minute why I believed her). She opened the show with one, but I don’t think she played a second one for the remainder of the 35-minute set (though perhaps I’m addled after the rest of the great show).

The rest of the set was a romp that covered the above-mentioned genres and added a closing Hip Hop number with Kenny Muhammad called I Love a Human Beat Box (or it should be if it isn’t). Kenny truly is a human beat box. In fact, he sounds like a full drum set in addition to other DJ like sounds. Pretty amazing.

KennyMuhammad

Honey also did a wonderful number as a tribute to her mother’s common sense advice when she was growing up, which she now appreciates even though she ignored it at the time, called Hold You Down. She had the audience sing during the chorus. We did a better job than the audience in this YouTube version of the song. 🙂

Backing her up, left-to-right:

Devory Pugh on keyboards (sorry, no good standalone link). He was solid, highlighted on one number. We chatted with him for a minute after the show. He also manages artists. Very nice guy! One of his guys, Charles Perry, will be appearing at Gospel Uptown on 1/19/2010.

DevoryPugh

Playing the electric guitar was a new member to the band (this was the second time he appeared with them). He has a Polish name that I didn’t catch. I’ll update the post if someone fills in his name for me. He was quite tasty, playing a jazz/blues style. Clearly a superior talent.

GuitarPlayer

Greg Norwood (AKA G the Backbone) on drums (also no good links). He was absolutely incredible throughout the set.

GtheBackbone

Jesse Singer on bass (again, no good links). He was solid throughout the set.

JesseSinger

Regine Roy and Cole Williams sang backup and did a great job. They both had good stage presence.

RegineRoyColeWilliams

While I can appreciate R&B, it’s not the typical music we go to see, so it was a treat to see someone that we enjoyed as much as we did. Even though I still think that the genre was not well matched to the headliners, it worked for two reasons: 1) all of the performers were top notch; 2) Honey is good friends with Ian (and possibly Greg), so there were quite a number of overlapping fans.

The Canal Room website listed the show as starting at 7:30pm, with doors opening at 7pm. We like to get to General Admission shows early so that we can sit as close to the stage as possible (preferably the front row). While the sound isn’t the best that close up, the view is. Lois is very near-sighted, so if we’re not right near the stage, the entire show is a blur to her.

We showed up early, as usual, and found out that everything was shifted back 1/2 an hour. It was cold out, but we were fine braving it to be first in. After a bit, management took pity on us (we were the only ones in line!), and told us that we could wait in the lobby inside. We were grateful, it’s quite an unusual move (we know from long experience).

After waiting 15 minutes inside, still long before the doors were supposed to open, another member of management also took pity on us, and told us that we could go in, but that it was still sound check time, so we should be respectful of that. Of course, we were.

It turned out to be quite special. We sat in the front row and watched Honey and the band warm up and play a number of songs they didn’t do in the set (mostly Christmas numbers that I guess they intended to do). Really good! But, in addition to just enjoying the music, I got a much better look at the guitar player, who played a lot of interesting riffs throughout the sound check.

We also chatted with Honey very briefly after sound check, and she’s as lovely as could be.

After the show we talked to Ian for a minute and got him to sign one of his EPs that we purchased at the Rockwood show. I always implore my readers to support the artists that they like, and we do whatever we can ourselves.

We bought an Ian Axel T-Shirt from Chad Vaccarino who was working Ian’s merch table. Chad did a great job singing with Ian at Rockwood and is credited with convincing Ian to start singing. Thank you Chad!

We also purchased three Greg Holden CDs and an unmixed, unmastered, unreleased CD of Honey’s, pressed just for fans that come to these types of shows.

Greg signed one of his CDs as well, and we got to tell him directly how much we love Nothing But a Memory (perhaps if I write it often, he and Joey will decide to make Lois happy and stick with that name!). 😉

We also ran into two of our favorite Alexes, Alex Berger and Alex Wong. We got to spend a bit more time with Alex Berger because we talked to him before Honey took the stage, and then after the show as well. Seeing Alex Wong was a treat too. I knew that he had a show in SF tonight and tomorrow, so we didn’t think he was still in town. His flight just made it out of NYC minutes ago, so hopefully he’ll hit the stage in time for the show…

AlexWongChrisAndersonAlexBerger

We know that the next time, we’ll be as likely to be told to wait outside until the doors officially open, but for last night, we’ll be forever grateful on all accounts. 🙂