Newfoundland's Hey Rosetta! first appeared on my radar last year when their third album "Seeds" was released and went on to make my Top Twenty Albums of 2011 list. But it was seeing the band perform live in September at the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale that completely won me over. In my review, I vowed I'd pay to see this band anytime they returned to the area and thankfully I had just that opportunity this past weekend as they came to the Magic Stick Lounge in downtown Detroit.
A couple of local bands opened starting with Noman, a band I've read about often in local papers and blogs but never got a chance to check out. The four-piece impressed me with their tight musicianship and stage presence, you can tell they've been doing this for a few years and are very good at it. Their music touches on rock, punk and soulful acoustic sounds and the instrumental segments where they stretched out showed a band very in tune with each other. I'd definitely like to catch them again around town.
Self-described superheroes The Boy Wonders were up next. Set aside their stage gimmick of wearing masks and capes and 'fighting crime' and you've got a helluva bassist and drummer. The duo apparently just started playing live in May and released their first EP in June. They also obviously don't take themselves too seriously as they ReTweeted me calling them 'awful' on Twitter. My apologies fellas, you're obviously good at what you do and you've got a great sense of humor about it all which I completely respect.
This was my first show at the Magic Stick Lounge, basically an area of the Magic Stick that used to be filled with pool tables that they've turned into a concert set-up for local acts and shows that are deemed 'smaller' than appropriate for the Stick. It's pretty much all standing room except for a few tables at the back and a couple chairs and a couch on the side. Luckily we were right up at the front of the stage and no matter the venue, big or small, there is nothing like seeing a concert standing right in front of the artist. It was obvious a lot of people had come over from Windsor to see one of Canada's best indie rock bands and I was glad to see a good turnout, the stage area was packed from front to back. I'm not sure of the actual capacity of the Lounge, I am guessing a couple hundred tops and it was full in there.
The sound in the Lounge, as it is in the Magic Stick area, was superb as well. Crystal clear, all three bands sounded fantastic. Once Hey Rosetta! started, they reaffirmed my belief they're the best band coming out of Canada right now and cemented their place as one of my favorite current bands period. Their musicianship is top notch, Tim Baker is an amazing songwriter with an emotionally compelling voice, the live strings of Kinley Dowling and Romesh Thavanathan compliment their music so well, this is simply an amazing band. There is a reason they are acclaimed as one of the best live acts in Canada and getting to see them up close in such an intimate setting was incredible. I also especially appreciate how they extend many of the songs live, stretching them out from their studio versions with instrumental jams.
Starting the show off with "New Sum (Nous Sommes), the band played nine of the eleven tracks on "Seeds", which they are still out promoting after it was re-released this year upon their signing with ATO Records in the U.S. "Yer Spring" and, one of my favorites, "Young Glass" followed as the first portion of the show focused exclusively on the most recent album. After "Bricks", Baker introduced a new song, tentatively called "Goldteeth" on the setlist I nabbed after the show was over. If this serves as a first preview of their next project, it's a great start.
Another of my favorites, "Yer Fall" was up next with the crowd singing along to the ending, something I always pictured when listening to the song. Perfect for audience participation. The band finally went back further in their catalog after performing "Seventeen" with one of their most well known songs, "Red Heart" from their second album "Into Your Lungs". This was a perfect example of a song stretched out live from the studio version, it was one of my favorite performances at the DIY Street Fair show last year and it topped it this time around. Baker headed back to the keyboards for another one from their second album, "Holy Shit (What A Relief)" which starts as a ballad but erupts at the end into a rock frenzy. The main set then came to a close with two more from "Seeds", "Welcome" and the title track.
A rhythmic chant of 'Hey Rosetta' started up from the crowd once the band left the stage, there truly is no better concert experience than to be surrounded by huge fans of the artist. Baker and the other five members of Hey Rosetta! seemed genuinely touched at the outpouring of love coming from those in attendance and repaid that love by playing a song not on the setlist that someone had called out earlier in the night, "Old Crow Black Night Stand Still". This one has not appeared on any of the band's albums, it was a song recorded for the CBC's Great Canadian Song Quest songwriting contest, certainly a rarity in their catalog. The encore then concluded with "Bandages" and the song I was most hoping to hear from "Into Your Lungs", "New Goodbye". A great way to close out the night.
Hopefully the enthusiastic crowd reaction encourages Hey Rosetta! to keep returning to the Detroit area when they tour. Combine the vantage point of being right up front in a small venue with the amazing band and this will go down as one of my favorite shows of 2012.