BMI Acoustic Lounge – Los Angeles

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.

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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.

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Andy Pratt LIVE at WitZend

When we arrived at WitZend Live last night in the heart of Venice, the place was alive with trendy teenagers whose plaid and floral print clothes hinted at the eccentric beach culture that often frequents this coast town listening room. A lively jazz ensemble was wrapping up their set, and conversations flowed on top of the lively music.

The tides turned, however, when singer/songwriter Andy Pratt moved to take over the stage. The scene transitioned from the colorful vibe of the West Coast to a wine glass-toting crowd dressed in blacks and grays, reminiscent of a more mature East Coast flavor.

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Pratt flew in from Boston for the two hour set at this unique listening room, which was founded by Jeb Milne, the owner of one of the most notorious live music shows in London, Singers. As Pratt took his place behind the piano in the corner of the intimate stage, it was clear how fortunate we were to be able to witness such a stripped down performance of someone who has been in the industry for decades, and has put out almost 30 albums in his lifetime.

The “Avenging Annie” artist brought musicianship, honesty, and confidence to the stage, all wrapped in a white satin suit jacket, over top a printed T-shirt, no less. In the many shows I’ve seen in LA, this one bared a stark difference in that Pratt was so at ease in his music, so effortlessly confident on stage, that one could not help but think that if he had played to a room of 10,000 or was alone in the studio, he would have put out the exact same performance. This level of professionalism exuded from Pratt simply loving the music he wrote and performed for us that evening.

The night was an excellent window into the life and work of a musician about whom Rolling Stone Magazine stated,”By reviving the dream of rock as an art and then re-inventing it, Pratt has forever changed the face of rock”. From piano, to guitar, and back, Pratt’s beautiful accompaniment, exciting key changes, and lyrical honesty (to the point of frankness) reminded the audience that once a musician is great, they never cease to be great.

For more on Andy Pratt, please listen to his various albums at www.andypratt.bandcamp.com. Closely associated with Reseda Ranch studios in Los Angeles, a new album is expected to drop from Pratt soon.

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.

“Finest Hour” EP Release by Nina Yasmineh

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The new EP from triple threat indie-pop artist Nina Yasmineh went live online on May 19th. Written, performed, and produced by Yasmineh, the newest release from the NYC artist had a strong act to follow with her well-received previous release “Seven Years”.

“Finest Hour” brings us 5 songs where “Seven Years” provided four, and each song boasts Yasmineh’s signature raw and expressive lyrics. Coupled with effortless vocals and subtle hip hop beats, “Finest Hour” is something to be listened to all the way through.

A recent graduate from NYU, Yasmineh’s youth contributes to her fresh, self-produced sound, but in no way compromises the excellence of the tracks on “Finest Hour”.

“Ghost”, released in February as a teaser, leads the EP with the strong, emotional swells that draw listeners back to Yasmineh for more. Her relaxed and seamless vocals cover her quick verses and soar to controlled heights in her lyrical hooks which speak to the heart.

From the hooky chants of the title track “Finest Hour” to the ethereal production of “Collar Bone” and the NYC-inspired final track “Sanctuary”, each track is unique in its sound and message, but it is Yasmineh’s lyrical prowess and emotional vocals that tie the EP together, and make it the perfect companion for any given Sunday.

You can listen to and purchase “Finest Hour” at www.ninayasmineh.bandcamp.com and follow Nina Yasmineh at www.facebook.com/ninayasminehmusic. 

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.