Streetwalking




Last month the GF and I took a trip to New York. She had never been before, and I hadn't been in a while, so we figured it was a good excuse for our first real vacation of the summer. The big news to report would be that the first sentence of this paragraph will be the last time I ever refer to her as "the GF," but Carl at The Opening Acts already broke that news. So instead, I'll talk about the second coolest thing I experienced on the trip... street performers.

I really like the idea of buskers, but honestly I usually don't get all that excited when I see one. We have plenty of them in Nashville, but they are invariably some dude who looks like he's about a week away from being homeless sing Hank Williams Sr. covers, or a really bad version of "I Walk The Line."

New York is different beast. It helps that they have one of the largest subway systems in the world, and you'll see just about every time of busker known to man there, from the the man-and-his-guitar types that we're overrun with here in Music City, to the Bleeding Gums Murphy style jazz man, blowing lonely blue notes from a beat up saxophone. In fact, you see so many of them that you get kind of discriminating about who you will and won't tip. Dude singing R&B to a karaoke tape? No. Mariachi band moving from car to car in the Subway? Close but no cigar. In our week there, we only threw greenbacks into two peoples hats.

The first was a street drummer. Now in NYC, these guys are a dime a dozen. Anyone with a industrial sized plastic bucket and a pair of Vic Firth's can set up shop on the sidewalk and make a racket, but this guy was impressive. Sure he had the standard issue bucket, but it also looked like he'd raided the kitchen of an abandoned flat. He had a cookie sheet, several pots and pans, and an oven rack, and out of these discarded culinary tools he was playing the kind of drum solo that would make even the most Neil Peart obsessed fanboy drool.

By far though the coolest street musician we saw was on our last day in the city. As we were hurriedly marching through the sweltering labyrinth that is the 53rd St/Lexington Ave Station in the summer, we heard a sound that stopped us dead in our tracks. There against the wall was a guy playing a singing saw. Hell to the yeah. I'd heard the sound that a bowed wood saw can make, but I'd never seen anyone play one before. We stood there absolutely transfixed for about five minutes before the heat and the fact that we had a plane to catch sent us on our way, but it took me the rest of the day to get over my giddiness at seeing someone create such a beautiful sound out of something that was never designed to be a musical instrument.

Comments:
If you return to NYC in July... you could attend the annual NYC Musical Saw Festival. The saw player you saw plays there, along with more than 50 other saw players. You can see videos at www.MusicalSawFestival.org/videos
You can also download musical saw MP3s there (in the side bar).

You might also be interested in a blog that tells about the musicians in the NYC subway: www.SawLady.com/blog
 
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