Share in the Isis sisterhood at Auntie Pasto's
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer
Diners at Auntie Pasto's Kapahulu clean up the last of their espresso and cheesecake, while DJs Toki (Cheri Allison), Zita (Maritez Apigo), Marloca (Marlo Dowell) and crew move quietly around them. Tables and chairs are cleared to reveal a red-and-white checked tile dance floor. Softly glowing multicolored Chinese lanterns are strung along a streetfront picture window behind the turntables. A small mirrorball on the ceiling is lit by a single golden light. And candles ... lots of candles ... flicker all over.
And in all honesty, no one slowly filing in for all-girl DJ collective Sisters in Sound's third after-hours Isis event in as many months seems to mind waiting for any of it to start.
Launched in February as Luna, Isis was imagined by Sisters in Sound as a night for female deejays, musicians, artists and poets to show off their work. Sisters itself was formed in January, when longtime friends Toki, Zita, Marloca and Chia (Monica Chen) were asked to deejay at an art show opening. And that's about all they would tell us.
So tight are the Sisters as a unit, the group politely declined to be interviewed for this article with one of their members away in Amsterdam. When I told them that I couldn't wait for Chia to come home, they still declined ... again, very politely.
Truthfully, I admired that. And if nothing else, it made me even more eager to check out the Isis sisterhood for myself.
Guest DJ Sunshine begins spinning a downtempo groove at about 11, inspiring a young blond woman in a silk Chinese blouse and long skirt to seize the floor first ... and alone. The mostly twentysomething crowd surrounding her seems lifted straight out of a "Felicity" dorm party episode. Guys sport baggy jeans, tees, polo shirts, skullcaps, backward baseball caps, and more logowear than a Target commercial, while the women walk a thin line between trendy and casually Gap with jeans, tanks and breezy peasant blouse combos.
I leave my companion Dawn guarding our prized bar stools (tables and chairs are, shall we say, scarce up front) to check out the scene in the back banquet room. Lit entirely by a couple of large red lanterns, more candles and another mirrorball, the crowd there waits patiently for a couple of spoken-word poets to go on. In a darkened back corner of the room, a framed and mounted photo of Pope John Paul II smiles down on a couple of sobriquets ("Ghetto Geisha," "Pöööme") scribbled on an empty art board.
I grab a piece of art chalk and a couple of multicolored pens on the candle-bedecked table, think a bit, and scribble the first clever thing that comes to my mind. Other people follow with far more clever thoughts to share.
Back out in the main room, Sunshine slips comfortably from drum and bass into a neo-soul remake of "Whole Lotta Love" that finally manages to lure more guys onto the so-far female-heavy dance floor.
"Whoohoo, Zep!" screams a woman next to me as she leaps into the fray, only to jump back out again when a remix of Portishead's "Sour Times" follows. Hey, I appreciated the Portishead, Sunshine.
Just after midnight, an anxious Khedjia warms herself up to share some verse with the back-room crowd.
"Play some good rhythm," she commands Zita, who rushes to comply. "This is a DJ joint. Come on!" Khedjia's eyes search the room, her mouth offering the slightest hint of a scowl.
"Are you gonna help me out, or are you gonna stop and stare?" she barks at the audience.
A tentative murmur peaks in a lackluster roar as the crowd probably afraid of getting hurt complies.
Dressed entirely in black, a young woman with a mop of curly hair steps up to the mike next, promising "excerpts from the diary of the Ghetto Geisha." Her vocal delivery crisp and amped, her verse playfully intelligent ("Like Erykah Badu, I might see you next lifetime," she offers an unnamed suitor), Geisha gestures her points wildly with her right hand, while clutching her open diary tightly with the left.
The spoken word portion of Isis now over, Marloca and Zita take their places at the backroom turntables for some rootsy hip-hop and house, while guest DJ (and first invited Isis male turntablist) Monkey (Kevin Cruze) works the main room with some old-school disco.
A guy with a T-shirt offering "drumandbassfora(expletive)upplace" and I watch a couple pawing each other playfully to Donna Summer's "Love To Love You Baby" while waiting for their martinis at the bar.
"Don't say anything bad about the Sisterhood," says Shelby Lawson, 24, leaping onto my companion's temporarily vacated stool.
I assure her that nothing completely vile has happened yet.
"You get paid a lot for this?" she asks, eyeing my notepad.
Um, yeah, I lie.
"Anybody sitting here?"
Kool & The Gang's appropriate (I guess) but oh-so-gouda (I'm sure) "Ladies Night" offers Dawn and I as good a reason as any to depart for the back room (and its art board) one last time before checking out. No one's really taking advantage of the smallish dance floor, but Zita and Marloca's downtempo, hip-hop and house selections are smooth, smart and good enough to keep the mellow group cloistered back here happy just the same.
Once again beneath the happy pope photo, we single out our favorite bits of art, autographs and advice.
Me: "Women = love." She: "If I were a man, I'd have a sex change."