Approaching Jalopy Tavern last Saturday, sweet sounds of country music floated through the summer air. There, on a tree-lined street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, patrons gathered together to listen to the stylings of three local artists: Tosa Kicks, Acacia Forgot and Paisley Fields. I arrived part-way through the show and everyone was having a good time: the statuesque drag queen Acacia Forgot beamed in a big blonde wig, strumming out a countrified version of Nicki Minaj's "Starships" on her guitar. The crowd, seated at wooden tables all along the sidewalk, sang along while sipping their drinks.
It's a unique experience to hear country music played in New York City. And for curious Brooklynites, Jalopy Tavern is worth exploring. It's no honky-tonk -- not like Williamsburg's unruly Skinny Dennis. But Jalopy is something all its own: a bar that's also a music venue, attached to the Jalopy Theatre and School of Music. On an otherwise residential block, the Jalopy theater and tavern are a bastion to Americana, Bluegrass and folk music amidst the ultra-urban, techno-crazed environment of NYC.
It was queer country night at Jalopy Tavern. After Acacia Forgot's set, headliner Paisley Fields took to the stage, performing original songs on a glittery piano. Kicking off with the raunchy "Ride Me Cowboy," it was clear the kind of show we were in for. And I was excited. Paisley appeared so at ease in front of the crowd, shifting naturally from light-hearted ditties to more intimate odes. One standout, "The Other Boys," began with a touching anecdote. When he was young, Paisley said, his grandmother used to let him try on her clip-on earrings. One day, arriving at her house, Paisley found a wrapped gift especially for him: a pair of earrings for his own.
"The Other Boys"
"Jalopy is one of my favorite bars to play and see shows. It's been my regular spot for years. I used to live around the corner and when I first started playing country music in Brooklyn they were incredibly supportive. I've made some life long friends at that place, it's really special."
-- Paisley Fields
Paisley grew up in Iowa; Waterloo's Electric Park Ballroom, which Paisley visited often, inspired the title for his latest album. It debuted not long after Paisley's previous album, the strong Glitter and Sawdust. I asked Paisley a few questions after the Jalopy Tavern show, to get a sense of his place within Brooklyn's live music scene.
Paisley explained that he's always loved Jalopy Tavern, and when the folks there asked him to play, he naturally hit up Acacia and Barbara Endes; Endes has punk country band called Girls on Grass but performed that night as Tosa Kicks. Paisley said he's grateful for any chance to play, especially in New York City: the place that's become his home.
Paisley released Electric Park Ballroom just before the Coronavirus pandemic hit. "It's been heartbreaking to have so many shows canceled, so anytime I get to play I am ecstatic," Paisley said. He had been slated to appear in South by Southwest in Austin, Texas -- and had even begun traveling when, suddenly, everything changed. But now, as life returns to semi-normal, Paisley is booking gigs. He enjoys playing at Branded Saloon, Union Hall, and has an upcoming show at the Knitting Factory on October 1st with Olivia Lurrie and Ryan Cassata. You can purchase tickets here!