Concert Review: Itasca @ Rhizome (11/16/19)

Itasca aka Kayla Cohen
Itasca aka Kayla Cohen (Photo from FB @Itasca)

Itasca is the pseudonym for Kayla Cohen, and along with her band of four, they performed at the intimate Rhizome DC on November 16th, for an early show.

Kayla is a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles giving fans her own brand of indie folk music, as captured in the new album Spring (via Paradise of Bachelors) released this month.

With Kayla playing the guitar, the band crammed into the small living room space of Rhizome adding another guitar, a bass, drums and a keyboard. The keyboardist also put on the flutist hat to good affect in many of the songs.

They started with “Bess’s Dance”, beautifully delving into our connections with Nature, a major theme of the album, which Kayla wrote during two months in New Mexico.

“Only a Traveler” has a quietly affecting mood of escapism, and when you take the time to watch the music video, interestingly it is ‘influenced heavily by the opening sequence in Heart of Glass, the film by Werner Herzog.’

They performed nine songs overall, all but one from Spring, to the intimate crowd. It was like watching a house party inside Rhizome, people enjoying the set from the staircase or from folding chairs in the dining room. If you haven’t made it over to Rhizome (just at the DC/Maryland border in Takoma), check out the event calendar, they have some cool things happening.

Kayla had some issues with tuning her guitar throughout the set, so at one point the flutist quipped, ‘I thought I had tuned my flute!’.

The name Itasca comes from a combination of an Ojibwe place and the Latin words for truth and head, and that seems apt because we always need more truth-telling in our lives.

Every song has a melancholy aura (provided by the great mix of instruments), with Kayla’s dreamy, heartfelt lyrics. Maybe “Golden Fields” best captures the overall sound and down tempo mood, at least it was among my favorite songs they played (maybe “Bess’s Dance” gets that honor).

Definitely check out Spring, and get better connected with Nature!

Bess’s Dance
Only a Traveler
Blue Spring
Golden Fields
A’s Lament
Voice of the Beloved (I think)

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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