The Open Sea

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here is the set list:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here is Katie’s set list:

KatieCostelloSetList

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

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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