Teso @ Art Fort 321

I could say so much about this talented young man we saw play at the Art Fort on Sunday. Most because I tend to get a little carried away and rambley, but also because it was just a wonderfully intimate and inspiring show. And since I’m two days late on this post (naughty, naughty), and I have another couple posts planned to publish this week, I’ll try to keep my never-ending monologue to a minimum and just post a couple videos of this talented and charming human and a short blurb about how awesome he was.

Teso plays an intriguing mix of funky Americana and hip-hop, looping beat boxing and canned beats with live and looped guitar riffs and his powerful and classic soulful vocals. He commanded the tiny room, the whole building nearly, and all of the dozen or so restaurant employees there, exhausted from the weekend to a point of almost visible confusion, were completely mesmerized. Moving up to sit on the floor in front of Teso, at his request, they gazed up and bobbed heads and tapped toes, both energized and soothed by the melodic beats and timely lyrics. “Rich kids pop pills with their silly friends… Let them all become politicians and business men. Livin life just to come to a bitter end, screaming at the past because nobody’s ever listenin

It was really hard to look away, I even managed to forgo the mid-show cigarette break. I had trouble paying attention to what I was recording, I would record bursts on Snapchat and on my phone camera and not be able to focus on the clip, because I really just wanted to absorb his music. When he played us two fast paced folk songs he’s working on, even when he messed up, everyone was thrilled. Instead of taking away from the performance, that tick in time that he stops, says “wait..”, and starts over at the right line, somehow manages to stay in beat and it engaged us more rather than pushing us away. It upped the buzz. We felt more like a part of the music than merely an uninvolved observer.

In between songs, he would tell very, very bad puns and jokes. But if you’re a fan of puns like I am, you know the more they make you groan, the better they are. It played well in the small venue and I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but his dry and vaguely disappointing jokes juxtaposed with his impressive musical ability and used the buzz he gives the crowd with his music to siphon laughs – but it made the crowd almost beg for more music. It was disguised as the classic “better than suffering the jokes”, but everyone in the room knew it wasn’t the jokes that made his music sound good. He didn’t need the jokes to be a fantastic stage presence. If anything, they diffused that powerful but sometimes intimidating and inaccessible image that great performers can have on a small crowd, or if they’re truly incredible – any crowd.

Stay tuned for an Inktober post, hobo dollars, and more art I’ve been working on!

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