2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Isabel Reidy)
by Steven Spoerl
Troll, Isabel Reidy’s first EP under the Izzy True moniker, was a record I found myself returning to countless times throughout the course of 2015. For whatever reason, those six songs wound up resonating fairly heavily and it was impossible to escape their grasp. Part of it may be that Reidy’s brand of songwriting is so distinctively plaintive but still manages to contain multitudes of acutely realized personal discoveries; it boldly eschews trends and embraces flaws. Incredibly well-versed and ceaselessly intriguing, it’s rewarded every return visit, continuously unfurling its own peculiar world. Reidy maintains full creative control for the piece below as well, recalling the tour stop that served as the introduction to the music of Bryan Reynolds. It’s a fascinating account of the type of moment that makes getting two hours of sleep a night for a few weeks straight completely worthwhile. Read it below and go looking for your own story from the road sometime soon.
Early this spring my buddy Joe (Modern Hut) and I played a show in Providence, RI. It was the final night of a little weekend tour we’d been on. We had just lost almost all of our gas money somewhere between Brooklyn and Rhode Island because Joe said, “let’s go to the casino,” and I said “okay, yes.” I said “okay, yes” because I am learning how to be a ROAD DOG and I believe that is how a ROAD DOG unwinds. Joe is a seasoned ROAD DOG with a deep, unwavering commitment to vice. He was teaching me all he knows. A ROAD DOG knows that throwing all of your money into the trash is a karmic investment towards your future, so it was no surprise that that evening ended up being a very special one. That was the night when we first saw Bryan Reynolds.
Bryan is a tall dude in his twenties with wide set eyes, an angular face, and a big mustache. He was dressed like a gym teacher going to church. It’s hard to remember exactly, but I think he wore a crisp pair of slacks, dress shoes, and a track jacket. There was an odd tension between the way he was dressed and his age- it reminded me of a time in high school when my friends and I shaved a bald spot into my friend’s head, dressed him up in my dad’s clothes, and made him try to buy us beer (mysteriously, this worked). His powers were immense- I could sense that immediately.
The show was held in a warehouse; lamp-lit, vast, and populated with couches in various states of dankness. We drank the $1 tequila and something-or-others from plastic cups while the first band played their numerous instruments for a small eternity. Towards the end of their set I crept into the kitchen to write a set list. There was the mustachio’d Bryan and his personal bottle of whiskey, doing the same. I peeked at his list. Some song titles I remember: “I Smoked Pot”, “Mr. Good-times-roll”, the mysterious “Cucumbers(?)”, and “King of the Road”. I have loved Roger Miller since I was a child. Good omens. My childhood friend who I hadn’t seen in years was there, evidently Bryan was his roommate at the time. Good omens.
There were about ten people at the show, not including the bands, certainly including the people who lived in the space. This was about the speed of all of the shows on that tour. I played. Applause, milling about. Joe played. Applause, milling about. Out came Bryan. He pulled a child sized classical guitar out of a brown paper Stop ‘n’ Shop bag and proceeded to play one of the best shows I have ever seen.
There is no way I can adequately describe what happened that night. So much about the show, when reduced to words could sound calculated, but Bryan’s spirit is pure. I’m certain of that. His songs are deceptive simplicity, but he is an extremely skilled musician. He sings with a rich, clear, tenor croon. Lyrically, he’s cruising at Michael Hurley’s altitude- in terms of performance, he is a spooky Jonathan Richman. For the record, those are my two favorite musicians of all time.
I remember when he busted into “I Smoked Pot” his voice warbled and quivered and peeled out beautifully. When he pulled out a little doo-wop “shoop-shoop-shoop” I had to work very hard not to laugh. Bryan delivered those scat lines with such sincerity that it wasn’t clear whether laughter would be appropriate. I ended up with ache-y smile face. At one point during the set Bryan seemed to get stuck on one chord- he played it over and over and over, eyes closed, rocking back and forth.
He did this for what was probably about five minutes.
It got to the point where I thought he might actually be having some kind of seizure or stroke. I felt genuine fear. I thought about calling an ambulance. Suddenly, seamlessly, he jumped right back into the song. Joe and I kept turning to each other and exchanging “Is this really happening???” faces.
The set ended with “Black Magic”. Bryan was joined by compatriot Adam Souza who was playing the Otamatone, an anthropomorphic musical note shaped instrument which sounds like a ghost type Pokémon dying. Everyone in the crowd knew the words and sang in three-part harmony. I felt like I had stepped into some alternate universe where this guy was a huge celebrity, or a religious figure (or something).
A really talented performer has the ability to transform the atmosphere of a place. The space that Bryan created that night was tense and immense. I know all of this sounds completely hyperbolic, but I really mean it. I walked away feeling deeply confused about the world, like maybe it had been some elaborate prank. I couldn’t tell what was real. That show changed the way I look at performance. I didn’t know it could be so much. Me and Joe have been talking about it ever since. If you are ever in Providence, you have to see this dude.