Jessica Latshaw

musician. writer. dancer.

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how it happened that we played on the subway that day and you all know about it now.

Posted By on January 7, 2012 in Funny Stuff, Performance, Thoughts and Feelings | 56 comments

The next time you decide to wear your hair in pigtails, think long and hard about it. Because, see, you might just become part of a little video that gets to see more of the world than you do.

I’m actually not upset about the pigtails, I just think it’s a little funny. And not so glamorous. But life is not about being glamorous, is it? If that were the case, I should really stop wearing my favorite sweat pants to the gym. The ones with the holes. In the seat of the pants, that is. But, lucky for me, the point of life is not glamour, so LIVE ON, dear sweatpants, LIVE ON!

But, someone asked me to tell about the youtube video. Give some exposition. Like, how it happened to be that me and the fierce drummer just started jamming on the subway on a regular Tuesday evening on the A train (as if there is anything regular about a Tuesday evening on the A train!). So, here goes.

I had come from a series of classes and grocery shopping (life is not about glamour; case in point). I had my uke strapped to my back because I like to use the commute on the train to practice, if I can. You know, make the most of the 35 minutes, better myself and blah blah blah. And–before you go into a tirade about how PEOPLE JUST WANNA BE LEFT ALONE ON THE SUBWAY, SO JUST TAKE YOUR UKULELE AND USE IT TO BUILD A FIRE BECAUSE YOU’RE A HIPSTER AND SO YOU SURELY CANNOT AFFORD HEAT!–let me explain. I practice so quietly. Barely strumming at all–more just going over finger positions and picking, that kind of stuff.

In fact, yesterday I was doing just that, when I suddenly looked at the guy next to me and asked, “Does this bother you at all?” He looked irritated by having to strain to hear my voice over whatever was coming from his headphones, and, once he did finally hear me, he said ‘no’ in such an are-you-an-idiot? kind of tone, that you’d think I’d asked him if he’d like to eat one of the rats that live in the tunnels for dinner tonight.

I didn’t ask him that till later, after I was finished practicing. Duh.

Anyway, my uke was strapped to my back while waiting for the train at 59th. Fierce drummer and his friends walk up to me. “What’s that you got?” the drummer asks me. “A ukulele,” I say. “It’s not a cello?” someone else asks.

“It’s not a cello,” and I leave it at that.

“Why don’t you give me your number?” the drummer asks me.

“So we can jam?” I ask.

“…Among other things,” he answers.

Which is when I explain that he can give me his number, if he’d like, but I don’t regularly give my number out. He scrambles to find a pen. The A train shows up. I move to leave. He convinces his friends to jump onto my train with me, and then we all sit down. “Are you good?” the drummer asks me.

Which is usually when I don’t quite know what to say. And honestly, I’ve only been playing the uke for a few months–I’m not that good. I’m pretty good at the piano; pretty okay, I mean, but not really good at the uke. Thus, the practicing during my commute, see?

Another guy asks me, “You gonna sing some (which is when he makes yodeling noises–and I am not gonna attempt to spell yodeling noises. Not at 2:15 in the morning, anyway)?”

“No,” I say. “I’ll sing something better.”

So, then, I don’t even remember quite how it happens, but next thing I know, the drummer has started a beat–he wants something in 6, but we compromise on 4–and I am playing Ain’t My Friend.

Matt, who I didn’t know then, but have since gotten to know some, has taken out his phonecam and is recording it all. I start to sing. I start to rap. The guy in the SOX hat to my left starts to smile. The drummer’s friend starts to tell everyone what is happening; how we are strangers and it’s truly a serendipitous moment that we’re all experiencing.

And the magical part is that, well, we all seem to truly be in the same place. This place filled with music. Either listening to it or making it–or both–we’re here. Sharing one space. Together. What a lovely word: together.

Anyway, the rest is, as they say, history.

I am extremely SHOCKED over how that clip has found it’s way into so many different places. When Matt told me he was gonna put it on youtube and made sure to get my first and last name so he could tag me, I thought, Cool, maybe my parents will like to see it. 

And they do; my parents sure do like to see it.

I just didn’t think so many other parents would like to see it, too.

I am grateful. It was special. It involved every last person that was there; not any one of us could have made that happen alone.

Like I said, together. 

56 Comments

  1. jeanok January 7, 2012

    I love this whole thing! The guy The you The uke The pigtails which I love to wear also and wonder why oh why did they not make it into the corporate world?? I mean the ponytail did! Ok nevermind that…back to the whole thing…I love it and the song is playing in my head daily, if not hourly. (its a good thing)
    Thanks for this piece of awesome magic, we all needed this.
    its so funny when I am on facebook the upper scroll thingy is packed with Jessica is now friends with..jim and bob and elmo and alice and sally and dirk and betty and verner and james and lisa…and so on and so on and so on.

    • jessica January 7, 2012

      yes, I was really glad to finally become friends with Elmo! I mean, ELMO! He’s a celebrity!

      And girl. Can’t you MAKE pigtails corporate? Or would that just be too taboo…?

  2. rob January 7, 2012

    Still so strange to me.. to find it on Perez Hilton…. i know.. it’s not the best site for a decent human being to be.. but I’m scrolling through it.. and i’m like.. HEYYYYYYYYY I know that girl!!!! And apparently he finds you “amazingly talented with a killer voice” :) i’m loving all this attention you’re getting.. score one for the good people of the world. :)

    • jessica January 7, 2012

      haha you’re the second person now who has been really embarrassed to admit to me that they found me on Perez! It’s okay! NO JUDGEMENTS HERE! ;)

      • Becky January 9, 2012

        The best part is that kid in the sox hat. When he busts out with that grin after you start rapping. That is precious.

  3. jason January 7, 2012

    So cool! I love reading the behind the scenes. It’s funny to see all the suspicious people who think it’s a fake and a setup and some ad agency is behind it all. What exactly would this be selling, anyway? Leggings!?

    I also think it’s very funny how all these people in this video are kind of their own characters. The Sox hat guy, Matt the filmer, the Hypeman, Conga guy, Subway Ukelele Girl. You guys should star in a new sitcom – the two thousand teens version of FRIENDS, perhaps.

    • jessica January 7, 2012

      lol, that’s hilarious. and you’re absolutely right about the character titles. HA.

      And also–I know–what WOULD that be selling? Pig tails?! lol, LEGGINGS?!?!

  4. Mandy January 7, 2012

    “It was special. It involved every last person that was there.” I wouldn’t have expected anything else.

    I’m just glad Whole Foods hates me or you might have been on the phone instead. This was WAY better.

    • jessica January 7, 2012

      you’re TOTALLY Right! that was the same night. Whole Foods was not cooperating with our phone call, huh? I had forgotten that happened right before!

      • Mandy January 7, 2012

        For serious! I’m afraid to ever call you again in case I would interrupt something like that!

        • jessica January 7, 2012

          haha it’s a valid fear. Clearly.

  5. aries January 7, 2012

    I, much like thousands of others around the world, literally cannot stop playing the video. Everything about it is perfect… everything. Thanks for the back story which makes it that much more special and of course for sharing your love of music and old sweatpants alike.

    • jessica January 7, 2012

      lol, what else IS there to love but music and old sweatpants?! Doesn’t get much better than that!;)

  6. semi not really anonymous January 7, 2012

    So like I’m sort of dying of curiosity to know – awhile ago on facebook your status was something like “I’m writing a rap song and wearing a half shirt” and at the time I thought, wow, Jess is writing a rap song, wonder if I’ll ever get to hear that one. So is the one? The infamous half shirt one? I think it was well over a year ago. I don’t even remember what I posted on facebook yesterday, but maybe you will. Or maybe you’ve only ever written one rap song, so that will narrow it down. If so, that must have been one darn inspirational half shirt.

    • jessica January 7, 2012

      I’ve actually written…7 rap songs now…so I am not quite sure which one was inspired by the half shirt! And now it’s a mystery…but I love that you remembered that post, Sandra (uh-oh, I just outed you!) ;)

      • semi not really anonymous January 7, 2012

        lol – outed – oh no! I wonder if the news of my identity will now go viral! (PS I’m so happy for you)

      • semi not really anonymous January 8, 2012

        Somehow it’s sweet karma that people who force trials upon us also are the source of inspiration for such beautiful art. Not that I want to take any credit away from a deserving half shirt. And I had a hard time restraining myself from putting a qualifier in front of the word “people,” but it is lovely when good comes out of bad.

  7. jason January 7, 2012

    And I have to say, I love you, but the old sweats with the holes in the seat? Time to go.

    • jessica January 7, 2012

      the holes are really very tiny, though. nbd. literally, not a BIG deal.

  8. Marie Ascher January 7, 2012

    So I take it you didn’t actually get the drummer’s number right? The train pulled up, you played, and went your separate ways? I hope your personal assistant (lol) is looking for him!

    • jessica January 7, 2012

      I did get his number–but have not seen it since (I am not good at keeping track of small slips of paper). however, someone has told me who he is–so I am gonna contact him!

  9. lucas compan January 7, 2012

    Such an amazing story – also, very captivating how was written. Actually, history. Together is a magical word, indeed. Especially in a city like New York. Congrats, Jess, people in the A train that night and, of course, Matt, the video maker. It was all about pure magic. And the history keeps walking… There is more to come, for sure.

  10. Fiorella January 7, 2012

    I’m so glad I saw your video of the impromtu subway performance. I have had a shitty day at work and come home super late crying angrily over the b.s. there. Then I saw this and it totally put a smile on my face and lifted up my heart. Keep going! Thank you. :)

  11. Heath January 7, 2012

    So if it wasn’t for Matt this moment would never have been shared around the world. The song, the performance and the whole moment is brilliant. Thanks for sharing and enjoy all the wonderful comments. :)

  12. Viewer Number 301! January 7, 2012

    Love it Jessica.

    I’m across the pond from you over in the UK and just happened to stumble upon the video before the huge hype! (View number 301!) I think it’s a fantastic video, and a fantastic story to go with it. I’m now luckily enough to have you on Facebook to see where these beautiful days take you..

    One request, if you want to, and ever have time.. I’d love the lyrics to this song. Not that I can play the uke, nor can I sing.. but I’d have a go at the latter!

    I look forward to seeing more from you in the future. Make sure you tour the UK when you’re famous too ;)

    Take care,

    Yet another stranger..

    • Dale January 7, 2012

      Jessica posted a new performance of the song from her laundry room and included the lyrics. Here are the lyrics and the link to the new video:
      Lyrics:
      baby, you ain’t my friend, and I ain’t your last call; nor can I let my heart wonder how you feel about me at all. Cause you got all your fans, people who are on call, but I ain’t one of them, nor can I let my self pretend…oh-oh-oh, baby, you ain’t my friend. oh-oh-oh…See, I don’t really really wanna just be your friend, we’re either gonna play this game or let the game end; I mean, sure, I’ll be polite and wave as I walk by, but it hurts way too much to act like we still fly; after everything that happened, that happened between us–you’re so good at pretending, while I just make a fuss; now, I ain’t saying that it’s now or it’s never gonna be, I’m just saying that this friendship feels impossible to me; and maybe someday it’ll be just fine between us, but that day ain’t today, and maybe there’s some truth to the way they always say that, baby, you’re from mars, and maybe I’m from, I’m from, I’m from venus…chorus…it’s not like you were wrong when you decided that I didn’t belong next to you, it’s just hard to stand here with you, when I’m not really with you, do you know what I mean? don’t think I’m trying to be mean–no! I think you’re just great, too great, in fact, that’s why I take a step back; it’s just a matter of survival as I walk through this new trial; don’t take it personally, cause I’m just trying to live free, to take a deep breath now and feel what I feel; as I keep walking, watch me walking, no, I won’t stop, though you ain’t here, stop with all the fear I tell myself, again and again, just as long as you say that you are my friend…so, hey hey hey, a baby (ay ay ay) you live your life now, and I’ll be busy living mine…so hey hey hey, a baby (ay ay ay), I already got quite enough friends now, thank you, yeah, I’ll be fine…chorus.

      Vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcbg2rOGY4E

  13. Jose January 7, 2012

    Jessica,
    Your music has gone global. I’m in the Navy currently serving in Japan and as I sit to enjoy my cup of coffee to start my day I see an ad on MSN.com that reads “Never a dull moment in NYC Subway”. Being from NY myself I had to read on. I’m glad I did. Thank you Matt for sharing this and thank you Jess for the amazing display of talent. I’d like to say thank you to the “fierce” drummer and his friends who decided to get you to play. Think of how many people would have missed out if you would have said “no”? Truly an amazing piece of art!!!!

  14. alan January 7, 2012

    Your subway song made my day = thanks

  15. Mom January 7, 2012

    Oh, Yes, Jess…..your parents are very happy to see your music all over the place! The shy girl who only sang to animals in rural Pennsylvania has gone global! What surprises there are in this life! You never know what may be just around the corner.

    I’m glad you explained what happened that day on the subway……the few people that have commented that they thought it was staged absolutely do not know you or understand the honest type of person you are.

    I could not be happier for you.

    • Jimmy January 7, 2012

      Your daughter has turned out to be an amazing girl.

    • Vernon January 7, 2012

      I have to admit, though I absolutely loved (love) the song and video, my inner cynic whispered “It’s a fix. It’s staged.” But my inner anti-cynic made me search until I knew for sure. Glad a found this! Keep it up!

  16. Dave January 7, 2012

    Absolutely loved it – would love to hear more of your music as well – what a voice you have! But yeah, only in NYC… :)

  17. peaj January 7, 2012

    Your Internets famous! (and yes, the “your” is deliberate, as the Internets is confused on it’s usage ;) So yeah, unless your fame is about holes in the pants, it may be time to spring for a new yellow pair.

    So glad that you’re getting the attention you deserve!

  18. Erika January 7, 2012

    I love it! Thanks for telling how it happened; I was curious. :-)

  19. John R. January 7, 2012

    Congratulations, I wish the best for you. You’re a confident performer and have a fantastic voice, but (I think) your greatest talent is your writing. I listened to a couple other youtube posts before landing here to read about the “event”. So, if the world keeps smiling in your direction and you get to make a bonafide career out of your music, my advice is this: option total creative control! If you get just one offer for a contract then I suppose you take it, but if you have multiple offers then let creative control be your barginning chip. Remember that your writing, not someone else’s, led you to this point. Oh, and I really like it, btw. :) Good luck, Jessica!

  20. Chriw W January 7, 2012

    Jessica, I think you can attribute the virality of this video to the fact that you have a great voice, you sang from the heart, and that song you wrote is kick-ass good! Not to mention the setting among strangers on the subway adding a surreal air of excitement to the whole performance. I haven’t been able to get the tune out of my head since yesterday when I first heard it. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not!/

  21. Chris W January 7, 2012

    Can’t spell my own name apparently…

  22. Jay C January 7, 2012

    Greetings from Sunny Cali! I love the song! And the backstory (and pigtails) take it over the top!

    But please, please do track down drummer man, a good mic (and maybe a bass), and lay this thing down for iTunes so I (and the rest of the world) can send you my 99c :)

    And please act fast; internets fame fades faster than a sneezing panda.

  23. Mike N January 7, 2012

    Just fantastic. I absolutely love your singing and spirit. Keep at it and I am sure amazing things await you.

  24. K Maitland January 7, 2012

    A friend posted the vid on Facebook which means it’s gonna be across Canada by the end of the day. Fabulous. And Jay C. is right – act quickly. This opportunity is not to be missed (as you well know).

    Best wishes.

  25. Tracy Y January 7, 2012

    Started my day yesterday watching your vid and shared (as did many) on my FB page. Checked you out on youtube and saw you only had a little over 100 views. What a difference a DAY makes!! Congratulations, Jessica!!

  26. Richelle January 7, 2012

    Hey Jess,
    I’m glad the world is getting to see what all of us VCFers already know. How incredibly talented you are. Kudos to you :) I think this video may do great things for you if it hasn’t already. :) God bless whatever comes next for you.

  27. Evangelina January 7, 2012

    I think what makes the moment so worth the attention is all the smiles. How many times do we ride the subway and everyone is just lost in their own minds, thinking about their own lives. You spend 35 minutes staring off into space. I love staring off into space and spending time in my head, but I *really* love when music brings people together, and this is exactly what everyone did.

    When Matt let the camera pan to see everyone’s reactions, I saw a bunch of smiling faces. I know when I’m performing and I see smiles it makes my heart leap a little inside. I see all the positive feedback you’re getting and it makes my heart leap a LOT. I’ve only known you for a short time, but I like to think I’m pretty good at finding awesome people. They make my life so much happier and make the world a better place :) (You would be one of those awesome people, Jess!)

    BTW I work in the corporate world and totally rock pigtails. It can be done ;)

  28. Hersh January 7, 2012

    I just stumbled upon this from a friends FB post. You’re pretty amazing…the whole scene put a smile on my face. Good luck with whatever you’re trying to accomplish. I’m sure “it” will happen for you. Much Love!

  29. Manny S January 7, 2012

    I too found this on a friends FB post and enjoyed every second. Keep up the practicing on the subway as you see, good things happen to good people. P.S. loved the pig tails, your so on target “life is not about being glamorous”! Good luck and Best Wishes

  30. sandy collins January 7, 2012

    Jess, I am elated to see you experiencing wonderful, unique daily surprises in your life! But, this one was over the top kido! I love seeing you on u tube! My heart is smiling to see you happy, enjoying and sharing life with others.

  31. GuyAzn January 8, 2012

    thanks for brighten up my day with your pigtails and music…

    life is not about being glamorous, but bringing ‘human’ back into ‘humanity’, which you and Quoom1 did. thanks again!

    GuyAzn
    from the other of the Altantic or Pacific ;-)
    http://wp.me/pKMGk-nY

  32. Wowzer January 8, 2012

    Congratulations from AUSTRALIA! You’re global. :-)

    I was in NYC in 2010 for a little over a week and I’ve honestly been dreaming of promptly moving there since my return home. This video just further escalates those desires, ten-fold. This got me so giddy watching it from my phone, I couldn’t imagine how overjoyed I’d have gotten if I experienced this impromptu performance in person.

    I actually came across this by actively typing “NYC Subway” into YouTube to quench the onset of a sudden longing to be back in New York. So many characters! I love Melbourne, but I MUST spend a protracted period in NYC, and I will. It’s a New Years Resolution I’ll work hard to realize!

    Good on you, Jess!

    P.S: I didn’t know you before stumbling across this video, but the fact that you didn’t immediately shrug him off (the djembe player) or dismiss him when it appeared as though he was hitting on you says a lot about your character! Pretty without pretension; that’s awesome. Stay kind. I’m glad you were so friendly, because look what it has spawned!

    Congrats again and all the best in 2012 and beyond. Sending you good vibrations…

    • jessica January 8, 2012

      Australia?! Rock on. I’ve heard wonderful things about your magical country–I’ll have to come see for myself at some point, I think. And yes–come on over to NYC–we loves Aussies here:)

  33. Vincent January 8, 2012

    stunning + beautiful song, Jessica. thanks a lot for this precious moment : much appreciated! keep on sticking human beings together thanks to your music.
    truly wish u the best for 2012!

    from France.

  34. Wowzer January 8, 2012

    I will, I will! I’ve just got to get this last uni semester out of the way and graduate! Same goes for you when you’re able to. You strike me as a very laid back person, I think you’d love it here. Keep at perfecting your musical crafts and I’m sure you’ll be brought out here, all expenses paid, on your very own tour at some stage.

    You’re definitely on your way to bigger and better things, that much is for sure.

    Endless congratulations, again! :-)

    Best of luck, Jess.

  35. Chris January 8, 2012

    Jessica thanks very much for this fantastic moment of NYC subway-ness. I have just arrived back in NYC from my native New Zealand and my ears are still stinging from the amount of mockery I got about going to New York in the middle of winter and missing the NZ summer.

    Showing your uke/pigtails/generally fantastic NYC subway experience to my mocking chums back home about how (expletive) cool this city is has one of the hightlight’s of my week.

    Thanks and best of luck.

  36. -Ana January 10, 2012

    Hey Jessica, just want to say thanks to you and all the people in the video and on that ride with you. I watch it over and over just for the joy and lift in my spirit! Reminds me of John Lennon’s song, Imagine. Perfectly random harmony and unity! So thanks again and the guy in the Sox hat was wonderful smiling so sincerely. Drummer Q you were amazing!
    PS: I posted the vid on FB.
    -Ana

    • jessica January 10, 2012

      What an amazing compliment-to compare my song to Imagine–thanks SO MUCH. And yes, being a part of that video was so cool–thank you!:)

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