Roma Nights

    Bright, warm, incandescent light bathes a room filled with chattering UCSD students. Espresso Roma is an orchestra of conversations, blenders, espresso machines and ringing registers. A man in a brown, orange and white-striped beanie is sitting on a stool at the far end of the coffeehouse. Armed with a guitar and quiet charm, 24-year-old Jason Yamaoka is freshly into his post as a new solo act under his project name J. Turtle. He strums an acoustic Martin guitar with folk-rock grace and scrunches emotions through his facial expressions while he sings.

    Courtesy of Rachel A. Garcia
    Guardian

    J. Turtle’s acoustic folk-rock resonates with the crowd of students in Roma; as more students look up from their thick textbooks and listen intently throughout the set. He is no stranger to the coffeehouse rock scene. Yamaoka is previously of Jason and Jane, a San Diego-based duo (Jason attended San Diego State University and Jane attended UCSD) that gained much popularity in the coffeehouse circuit since their emergence four years ago. The duo parted ways in February 2003 and Jason has since re-emerged with a vision: to be an independent musician and producer, with Ani DiFranco-like command of control over his own business and music. He stresses independence and is very intent about having no limitations with his music. “”The reason I don’t want to sign to a label is because I know they are going to ask for an image,”” he said.

    The music is a charming repertoire of songs about relationships, love lost, love gained and sleepless nights. J. Turtle’s songs are sounds that he would describe as raw. He draws inspiration from favorite bands, ranging from the country-tinged Toad the Wet Sprocket to hip-hop pop Outkast. He speaks and grins with a sweet little boy’s ease, and talks to the audience as if each person in it was a good friend. As J. Turtle plays, sweetly haunting acoustic sounds float through the air and grace past the faces of weary yet intrigued students. The lyrics are honest and open, and so is he. At the end of his set, the whole coffeehouse applauds- a drastic change from the first few hapless claps and listeners at the beginning of the show. An audience is charmed. Many fresh-faced fans are born, and he talks to everyone who approaches him- and a lot do.

    The staff at Roma say J. Turtle had one of the best turnouts for Roma Nights ever: He has always drawn a large crowd, whether with Jason and Jane or as J. Turtle.

    Most UCSD students are winding down from a long day, and prefer studying at the hubbub of a lively coffeehouse to the high-frequency silence of the library, and J. Turtle provides the perfect background music and the ideal coffeehouse performance if you just let him.

    Find out more about J. Turtle by visiting his site, http://www.jturtlemusic.com. Espresso Roma hosts Roma Nights every Monday at 7 p.m. with an array of acoustic artists every quarter.

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