After a long nap and an even longer shower, me and Dan made our way into Brooklyn to watch one of my favourite guitarists. When I was 18, I was going through my faze of loving classic jazz which hasn’t yet ended. I popped my headphones on and scrolled down until I found an acoustic version of ‘You Make Me Feel So Young’, which was by an artist called ‘Isto’. I was completely hooked on this guys music, because it seemed very diamond-in-the-rough. His skill was insane, but his whole persona seemed very unaltered and unpolished. I’m starting to go a little red talking about this, because telling people what you used to love when you were 18 is embarrassing enough, but its tenfold when you have taste like mine, which was uncool before it was popular to be uncool.
This guy is not, to my knowledge, a very well known artist, but he may as well be Frank Sinatra himself for how much he has moulded my musical taste over the years. The biggest thing about him is he seems to either not care or be inept to follow trends or fashions in music or otherwise. I’m yet to see a cover of Taylor Swift anywhere in his repertoire. I’m making these bold statements based on very little evidence, because he only ever lets the music do the talking in his videos. That alone must seem archaic, as we now know everything about our favourite artists, but I’m a huge fan of anyone who doesn’t scream all their personal secrets into the void.
Either way, I don’t think he was ever going to make it to Wales to do a gig, so the stars aligned for one evening and allowed a 26 year old me to realise the small dream of an 18 year old me.
It was also a good excuse to go see Brooklyn, so that we could leave New York saying we’d seen Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens. It was lovely, and much more quiet at ten o clock on a Friday evening. We made our way to a bar called the ‘Jalopy’, which is one of those older buildings which doesn’t appear to be much on the front, but goes on and on inside, with bits being added over the years and affectionate clashings in decour. When we first got there, we saw a big sign saying ‘Sold Out’. I was not ready to accept that it might not happen.
I was gearing myself up to publicly cry in front of the bouncer and tell him my life story, when he stopped me in a tracks to tell me that Isto and his band were playing next door for free (tip encouraged). This was a much more personal venue, where you either had to sit at the bar, or you had to sit very close to the performers themselves.
We entered just on the tail end of a very sultry singers act, before the band went on. Some prime seats became available just in time, so we took them and watched the band get ready to begin. The band consisted of four people – Isto himself on some kind of metal guitar, a classically pretty lady on a ukelele, an Italian looking guy on an acoustic guitar and a Heath Ledger doppelganger on the bass. It would have been a bit awkward to sit there videoing them play when we were so close, but we did sneak a photo.
This group was called “Isto’s Tropical String Band” and they impressively sang in both English and Hawaiian, and performed in both a Hawaiian and traditional Jazz style. You’ll have to check them out to see what I mean as it’s difficult to describe! It turns out that Isto (White shirt) has been married to the lady in the band for a few years now, and they met seven years ago in that venue. It was a really sweet announcement to make on the venues ten year birthday. In the UK, that announcement would get a clap and maybe a couple.of wolf whistles. Here, some guy went nuts and chanted the word ‘Jalopy’, until he was red in the face.
Afterwards, more of my 18 year old self came out as Dan had to egg me on to speak to the band. 26 year old me has no problem talking to anyone – introduce me to Obama, I don’t care, but 18 year old me hadn’t yet finished being an awkward teenager. I’m glad I did eventually speak to them, but I’ll always remember how I slipped up painfully. I’ll have to give you some of the dialogue and try and format it in a way that shows what I meant to say and what I actually said. Being tired is not enough of an excuse for what came out of my mouth.
Meant to say: Hi, I just wanted to say I’ve been a big fan of yours for a few years now and wanted to tell you that you guys were great tonight.
Said: “Hi, I’ve come a long way to see you and I’m tired.” (already starting to screw up)
Lady Replied: “That’s cool, where are you guys from?”
Meant to say: I’m from Wales, thanks for asking. Have you always lived here?
Lady replied: “Oh cool, so I’m guessing you found out about our gig tonight from Chris’ (Isto) videos?”
Meant to say: Yeah, I’ve been watching them for a while and really enjoyed them. It was amazing luck to find a gig so close to where we were staying.
*By this point, she must have been struggling the poor girl! Chris came over himself and things went from bad to worse. After meeting and greeting there was the briefest of pauses.*
Meant to say: Thanks for talking to us after your gig, it’s been really nice meeting you, but I can’t take up any more of your time.
Said “You guys seem like you really want to go” (Why Liz?!?!?)
Chris Replied: “Oh yeah, I guess we better make our way back. It was nice meeting you though. I hope you guys didn’t notice my bad throat tonight, I’m not sure I lived up to the videos that you’ve seen me in.”
MEANT TO SAY: Oh I didn’t notice at all! You guys were just as good as your videos so don’t worry about that!
BLOODY SAID: “Well your video recording equipment isn’t very good so you definitely sounded better tonight”
They were nothing but friendly and gracious throughout the entire conversation, and wished us well at the end. They even said they hoped we’ll get to see them perform again – in a genuine way! I didn’t deserve their manners and waited an appropriate time before sending an apology email, confirming that my mission was to see them perform live, not verbally trash their recording equipment.