Trisha Ivy And My Forgotten Country

I think this is why I started saying "BK Country"

I think this is why I started saying “BK Country”

I’ve been introduced to Trisha Ivy on a few occasions. The first time I met her she was sitting on a stoop with Amanda outside of Bar 4 after a Barefoot & Bankside show. She didn’t perform. She was just there for support. She’s another hailing from Tennessee. Trisha is very pretty. I state that as a fact. Long, curly blonde hair. Big dark eyes, and a shining smile. Something deep down in those dark eyes, though, tells me she won’t put up with a schlub or an ass for too long. There’s nothing mean in them. At every encounter she’s flashed the warm smile and said, hi. I don’t know, maybe I was just suddenly feeling like a schlub and an ass before her. She’s very pretty. That’s a fact.

The next few times I would see her she did perform. Her shows are solid. Trisha is a charismatic singer. When she bellows a sad, somber note I feel for her. When she gets a little ruckus going, I really wish someone would teach me a country dance because toe tapping and head nodding don’t really speak my heart. Christ, is this silly wording latent, resilient country boy, or a newly acquired affectation? Whichever, Trisha’s music, like B&B, inspires me to join in. I hope I can convey the achievement that this is as this blog continues. I meant to leave my home in Georgia. I never meant to (re)ingratiate myself with the southern/country scene, ANY southern/country scene.

B&B is a band in its infancy, still trying to find and secure their groove. Trisha Ivy, on the other hand, seems to have her act together, literally. Her sets are paced well. She knows after a couple of sad songs when the patrons are staring a little too sullenly into their beers to kick it up and give them something to move to. She even has patter and jokes between songs. That sort of thing pleases me, when the stage time and the show has a “just another gig” quality, but only when it’s backed by sincere enjoyment and dedication as her gigs are. She has a day job, night job, rather, as a bartender at Hometown BBQ in Redhook (more on that joint later). This aspect draws me to her, as well. It’s obvious she came to Brooklyn to bust ass. She’s very pretty, but she doesn’t rely on that, and she doesn’t need to. I can relate to her. Not in the good looks department. Jesus, maybe not in the talent department either. I came here with a complete manuscript of my novel thinking “realistically” I’ll be a big billy badass paid writer within about two years. I’m in my sixth year. I work in a restaurant. You feel me?

I bought her ep, “Cotton Country.” At the time I found it I could have gotten it for free, but I went to, anyway. It was five bucks, which is nothing, especially for her songs, and I wanted to help out, because with this blog and these new found good times here in the city, I feel I am being helped. I agree there’s a more traditional pop appeal to her than, say, with B&B. She doesn’t have the hard-rocker edge I normally lean toward in my listening life, nor is she trying to be a hard rocker. Her songs are melodic, pretty. Listening to the ep with my headphones on the R train I was able to hear the lyrics much clearer than I could while half-lit checkin’ her set out at Hometown or Union Hall. She’s a talented writer. Co-existing with the prettiness of her music are lyrics that bespeak a soul who’s been around, and is being honest about it. She has wit, grit, and an excellent grasp on succinct storytelling in a song.

Trisha 3 by Beth

Thanks to Bethany Michaela for this pic.

I know I don’t speak too well of my hometown, because of its history and my own history and experiences there. However, I do have friends and family there, and beside them are good memories. Listening to that Tennessee girl up there on the stage, well, it helps to shed some of the southern grudge. Some cracks in my shell have recently been discovered, and Trisha’s music pries at them making me remember southern sweetness. I used to climb Sawnnee Mountain with friends. We smoked cigarettes and looked down upon our little town. We all had a dream of leaving it. We knew more had to be out there in the world. I had picnics in fields under a shady tree with my beautiful sweethearts who would provide all the food and blankets because I was a mostly worthless boy. I could make them laugh, though. Here I am now in the big city far, far away from home and a long time gone. And here, now, are these wonderful new southern friends set in my path with their familiar accents, and their kind hearts. Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe I was a mostly worthless boy for too long, blind from dreaming too much. Maybe I squandered too many kind hearts in my life. You feel me?

That First Show (or How I’m Learning To Stop Being A Bitter Southerner and Just Enjoy the Damn Music)

Jesus, it was hot. When I left my home in Georgia I naively thought I’d escape the muggy heat of our summers, but it gets as humid and hot here in Brooklyn. Add to that an apartment with windows strategically placed to let in blasting sunlight, like, all damn day! Add to that baking garbage, and to that subway stations like kilns. But, also, ladies in dresses. My favorite vision when I can catch it, is an attractive lady in a summer dress, skin flushed, and sweating. She’ll be sitting in the shade with the dress pulled up as far as common decency will allow, because she hates being hot, too. I don’t dislike summer in Brooklyn. It can remind me of home.

I had been running my A/C, and decided it and my ‘lectric bill needed a break. When I turned it off I had about an hour to get an evening game plan before my room became as hot as the Dickens again. My friend Amanda was texting me to come see her show at Bar 4. They were the opening act, and I was pushing it as far as being able to walk there in time. All the other people I was desperately trying to get in touch with for something else to do were declining. So, fuck it, I went to see Barefoot & Bankside at their first show.

I expected little. I figured it would be a band of friends who sounded ok together. I knew Amanda had a nice voice from hearing her sing along to songs at the restaurant we both worked at a few years ago. So, I thought she would sound nice, and pretty enough. I imagined the audience would be a few people from the church where Amanda had met her bandmates. When I left my home in Georgia I never wanted to sit in a church crowd again.

It was my first time at Bar 4 which had been a Park Slope institution for fifteen years. Park Slope now is young, hip couples with strollers. Back then it was hookers and drug dealers. I really liked the bar. You know how a movie despite bringing nothing new to the medium can be excellent solely because of how well it works within established conventions? Bar 4 was like that. It was a bar done right. No frills added, no corners cut.

The joint was packed for B&B. It was filled with good, clean looking white kids. By how few had drinks in their hands, and how utterly congenial was their collective attitude, I assumed correctly these were Amanda’s fellow church folk. Up front and singing with Amanda was a man named Jamey. Slicked back, jet black hair, full beard, ear gauges and lots of tattoos, but nonetheless a good Christian man (and I do not say that disparagingly), Jamey was the owner of Roots Café, a place I often go to write.

Jamey, being B&B’s primary songwriter, is plenty steeped in old roots country music, and with a tinge of darker southern gothic atmospherics. Jamey can sing, by god. And Jamey’ll stomp his boot to keep time. He’ll play his guitar and holler his songs like every time is the first time, best time he’s ever done it. And Amanda, forget about it! Beyond nice and pretty was her voice. She was back-up for the first couple of songs. Though in front with Jamey she seemed to hang back, sway and bob with the music, harmonize here and there. Then came the first song she was able to let loose on. Her eyes closed, her hands did these weird witchy gestures and her mouth opened, and for me the whole Barefoot & Bankside operation came to life. I was reminded of Loretta Lynn in her hay day. I was impressed. I was proud. I wasn’t just appreciating the show, I was feeling it. So was the crowd.

After her first belt, the band could not be heard over the cheers in the room. Later, I would bring other mutual friends to see Amanda. I’d watch them react the same when they saw her let that voice loose for the first time in the set. Those friends would come back on their own, and they would bring their own friends. After the set, the crowd left to the disappointment of the following acts. Everyone was there to see their friends in Barefoot & Bankside. This reminded me of the very real and working community aspect of church. How lucky would some indie rocker in Billsburg be if he/she had the same network? Or I? Most of us who come to NYC seeking our fame and fortune come here alone. Very alone, afraid and in over our head in a city that truly doesn’t care for any previous hard work or effort. Damned if none of us didn’t wish for a hug, friendly cooked meal, and friends, and friends of friends, giving us support for just because. For just because why not be decent and have a little fun.

Feeling lighter and directly inspired by my friend Amanda’s performance, within the next couple weeks I went to my first open-mic stand-up and made a few cynical fellow-comic wannabes laugh. If I’m going to use the word “baptize,” if I’m going to be shaken into giving a shit, it’s going to be by music. That night a little of my anti-southern cynicism, and that New Yorker thick skin was sloughed off.