Held on the first Monday of every month for the last 10 years, the performing rights organization BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) brought a new wave of talent to the stage yesterday night, marking the beginning of an excellent winter in the West Coast music scene.
Organized like a round, or for my dancers out there, a cypher, four young singer-songwriters brought three of their best to the intimate stage of the legendary Genghis Cohen restaurant and venue off Melrose and Fairfax in trendy West Hollywood.
Patrons lined up to take a seat on one of the many benches lined up facing the stage, like a train car getting ready for departure from the platform of our every day lives.
Up first was Latin actress and artist Ilza Rosario. Teamed up with her skilled guitarist, Ilza brought a unique and distinctly Latin flavor to the table for our first course. Starting out with a bang, her first song showcased her breathy, sultry vocals, which were both shockingly expressive and controlled. As the round came back for her a second time, Ilza displayed her talent for rapping and expertly weaving a tapestry of Spanish lyrics together, to draw in Spanish speakers and English speakers alike. The rhythms and emotions of her last two songs, especially demonstrated in “Hollywood”, a song which spoke of the irony of the Hollywood Walk of Fame – how the stars are below our feet, and not in the sky – brought the final punch to the audience. We may not have understood every word, but we were completely captivated all the same.
Following Ilza was the energetic indie artist Ryan Calhoun. In partnership with his guitar and catchy power chords, Calhoun brought a fresh, Nashville-esc energy that the round sorely needed. Rising above the often dark, brooding emotion of his contemporaries, Calhoun’s catchy hooks and chant sections brought the audience the refreshment we needed before continuing on in the round. A particular favorite, centered around a girl as the reason “Why I Drink Coffee”, could have easily been the holiday jingle for a heartwarming coffee commercial. From car wrecks to coffee shops, Calhoun brought us full circle in the ebb and flow of relationships, using bright metaphors and memorable punch lines to inevitably bring the audience’s hands together every time.
Next up we had newcomer Sonia Rao. Relatively new to the music scene, Rao brought a rawness and devotion to her craft which was evident and admirable. Starting her set with a nod to my hometown, Minneapolis, I couldn’t help but be sold on the young artist. From round to round, Rao brought an intimacy and honesty that was unparalleled throughout the night, matched with a realness and power in her vocals which was simply stunning. Her ambition to create music that was helpful not only to herself, but to others, is exactly what the music industry needs more of, and we were happy to have it showcased to the music lovers of Genghis Cohen and BMI.
On the corner of the stage sat a powerful presence waiting her turn to shine. Latin singer-songwriter, Sharin, whom we’ve had the pleasure of covering before, ended round one with her Spanish ballad “Facil”, a beautiful ode to how easy love can (and should) be. Her second contribution, “Over You”, had been previously pitched to the likes of P!nk and Kelly Clarkson before being ultimately placed on her own EP “Quiero”. From song to song, Sharin showed the audience through her powerful vocals, her expert use of control and emotion, and her carefully crafted pop phrasing that she is a fire ready to be set on the popular music scene. Ending the night with her hit Spanish track, “Sin Ti”, Sharin encompassed everything a Latin-pop artist should aspire to be – soulful, powerful, passionate, and hungry.
Follow the links above to learn more about each artist, and we look forward to hearing more about their blossoming careers as they continue to break on the Los Angeles music scene.
The next BMI Acoustic Lounge will be held at Genghis Cohen on January 5th at 7pm. No cover.
Drea Dorman is a singer-songwriter and music enthusiast living in Los Angeles, CA. Learn more about Drea and her music at www.dreaofficialmusic.com.