Monday, June 15, 2009

'Come what may, guess I'm OK, I can't complain..'

One of New York’s freesheets, amNY, did a piece this morning (complete with a cutesy cover illustration) looking at passenger complaints that have been lodged with the MTA over the past couple of years.

Among the predictable problems - the paper says "kvetching about lewd advertising, filthy stations and other irritants trumped more serious concerns" - one rider was clearly so upset by a Subway player that they were moved to send this message:

“The musician who plays…at the Astor Place uptown stop is horrendous. Please tell me how I can spearhead his removal. He has to go.”

Having read that, there was only one place I could possibly go and play today.

Now, you’d figure that at the busier stations, the average length of time a passenger has to listen to a subway musician is maybe no more than three minutes before their train arrives. And don’t forget, passengers can always move along the platform to alleviate their angst.

Everyone’s tastes are different, of course, but if someone can annoy another person so much in three minutes that they feel they have to actually write to the MTA about it, then I’d like to hear them for myself.

So I went to Astor Place to play today, but also to try and track down the musician who might have prompted such a visceral reaction.

No luck, I’m afraid. I was there for about an hour and saw no-one playing the platforms. And I can understand why; it’s maybe the noisiest station I’ve played at yet. Up and down platforms with a transit rail in the middle – I barely had a chance to get through one song without interruption.

I went far enough down the platform that I would catch passengers getting off the first four cars, and also anyone waiting would be able to hear me; but it wasn’t the sort of stage where you got any time at all to play without a train going through. Anyway, I played for a while and made a dollar. Week-on-week, I’m ahead.

No sign of the offending busker from the amNY piece - of course it's possible that the complainant got their wish and "spearheaded his removal" - but I’ll come back and look again. Later I went over to W4th to try to track down MonaLisa, who I met last week, but she wasn’t there either.

Lets try BuskerCam tomorrow!

Today’s songlist:

New York, New York – Ryan Adams
May You Never – John Martyn
Little Sister – Ry Cooder
Life In Technicolor – Coldplay
How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live? - Bruce Springsteen
Learning To Fly – Tom Petty
Leap Of Faith – Bruce Springsteen
Rosalita – Bruce Springsteen
Wonderwall – Oasis

Incidentally, last year Oasis put together an 18-minute documentary Dig Out Your Soul In The Streets featuring NY subway musicians playing tracks from the band’s latest album. If you haven’t seen it it’s well worth a look.


I saw a different kind of performance on my train this morning. A man got on, about 50 years old, wearing a crisply-pressed pair of khakis and a laundered green golf shirt. Then he started ‘preaching’. He had a soft-spoken Jamaican accent, but what he was saying was anything but soft.

His fellow passengers tolerated him for a couple of stops, but when he got to the part about all of us sinners being “consumed in a lake of fire”, one rider just yelled: “Aw, come on man, this is the Subway”.

I mean, some things are sacred, after all.


Simon Owens from Bloggasm did a nice item about my blog today, for which many thanks.


On the media front, David Carr wrote a piece in yesterday's paper about my former employer and the woes facing the business press in general. I’m also going to be attending this panel tomorrow evening at Columbia University, so I’ll report on anything interesting that comes out of it. Wife, meanwhile, is off to see the Indigo Girls at the Central Park summerstage. Who gets the better deal?

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