Rock out

My morning commute to work is punctuated by the Music Under New York performers.  Each day of the week a different musician with a different sound and a different vibe.

Luke Ryan has been at this for 30 years.  His shtick is to be clever and snarky, to put in your face that you’re walking by him, head down: there’s nearly as much commentary about “putting a little money in the case” as there is music, and a fixture of his guitar case is a sign that reads: “I’M A STREET MUSICIAN…TOO WEIRD TO LIVE TOO MEAN TO DIE.  GIVE ME MONEY OR I’LL PLAY MUSIC.”  Luke’s “show” is build around that gag and about making you aware that you’re walking by with your head down and your hands in your pockets.  My experience, when I put money in Luke’s case, is a bit of guilt, some awareness of separation, a sense of obligation.

On Friday mornings in that same spot, the Ebony Hillbillies rock out with their mean, jumping bluegrass music.  It is soulful.  It is uplifting.   It is joyful and ebullient and raucous.  It’s a jolt, it puts a spring in your step.  I see the performers smile, not for me, but for themselves.  My experience, when I put money in the case, is gratitude that they’ve shared their joy with me, connection, humanity, and perspective.

Yes, the Ebony Hillbillies’ case is always fuller than Luke’s.

And no, this post isn’t about street musicians.

Why I love New York

Music and humor on the way to work – talk about a different kind of commute.

People in Grand Central Station dressed in swimsuits, shorts, and work clothes, guerrilla marketing for The Ebony Hillbillies playing bluegrass outside the Shuttle train. And a woman named Julie (I think) playing guitar on the Shuttle train and singing in an angelic voice.  I’m sure she’s better than most paid acts in any other city around the world.

Some reflections:

  1. Peak commuting hours have the most people, but they’re so focused on getting to work that you aren’t going to get their attention.
  2. Nothing surprises a New York commuter
  3. Stopping for five minutes to see something beautiful, humorous, and memorable helps us all get through the day

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Ebony Hillbillies and the sounds of New York

Having been away for a week, I particularly appreciated hearing the sounds of the Ebony Hillbillies in the NYC Subway on my way to work on Friday (I don’t think the YouTube clip does them justice – try one of their albums instead).  They are part of a group of artist who grace MTA riders with their music, providing a cadence to the week and a lift to your commute.

Outside of buying one of their albums and giving them a few dollars, I don’t know how to thank these guys and tell them what a wonderful part of my week they are.  And it’s interesting, because peoeple who are much less talented I’m sure have gotten much more fame and fortune than they have.  So check them out and spread the word – they make wonderful music.