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New York Subway Musicians go to Korea...
December 16, 2003 11:12 AM   Subscribe

New York Subway Musicians go to Korea (from ArtsJournal.com)... And they can stay there, as far as I’m concerned. When you’re an out-of-towner, or just use the subway once a year, buskers are so quaint and picturesque. But if you’re a commuter who rides the subway every day of your life, they are stupendous annoyance, preventing you from concentrating on your reading, and generally adding to irritating cacaphony of an already inhuman environment. The subway is not some cute audition club for aspiring mimes. As Serious Danger points out, "approximately one in seven people waiting on your train platform is a face-slasher or a gut-stabber who will cut you with scant provocation, and less warning."
posted by Faze (87 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I like subway musicians.
posted by gwint at 11:24 AM on December 16, 2003


Me too, most of the time. Why the editorial?
posted by agregoli at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2003


If you are really that afraid of poor people, move to Westchester and work from home. Seriously.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:34 AM on December 16, 2003


The second link is the real gem, here.
posted by silusGROK at 11:42 AM on December 16, 2003


I don't mind buskers on the platforms or in the stations. Ones in the trains (esp. loud ones) are sometimes annoying, but usually just colorful. And some of them are actually pretty good.

And this Serious Danger site is a hoot:
"The subway platform is death's sewing-room."
"Hundreds of commuters are shoved in front of trains every day." (Really? Do tell.)

Also: Where does this "one in seven" stat come from? Cite, please.
posted by Vidiot at 11:43 AM on December 16, 2003


WTF? This is a piss-poor excuse for a post. The link appears to be merely an excuse for an uninformed rant about the NYC subway. I've lived in New York for 23 years now and never had anything bad happen on the subway that wasn't inherent to a transit system (occasional long wait for a train) or caused by my own stupidity (overfull bladder). As for the musicians, some of them are good (I happily give them money) and some bad (I move to the other end of the platform if necessary), just like anything else. If you want to take a consistent position, ban music on the radio -- a lot of it's bad there too.

And what PrinceValium said.

Vidiot: I assume the Serious Danger site is a joke; the quotes you cite are clearly not serious, and the second continues:
There is only one absolutely certain way to avoid being pushed in front of any given train, and that is to get pushed in front of an earlier train, and killed.

You can, however, take some preventative steps to try and defer your day to die: as the train approaches, turn your body so that your shoulders are perpendicular to the track. Spread your feet shoulder-width apart and shift your weight slightly to the foot nearest the track to brace yourself for the shove that is almost certain to come.
Uh huh.
posted by languagehat at 11:49 AM on December 16, 2003


Since they also offer a three-part series on "How To Survive Monster Attacks", I don't know if I'd worry too much about the credibility of "Serious Danger"

(on preview, what languagehat said)
posted by briank at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2003


The only buskers that I don't dig much are the ones who just play the melody of things like the theme from Titanic along with a Karaoke-style tape/cd. But even that isn't quite a "cacaphony" or something "inhuman."
posted by hackly_fracture at 11:55 AM on December 16, 2003


Are you Andy Rooney?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:56 AM on December 16, 2003


Yah, I realized after hitting "post" that my sarcasm didn't come through too well. I was picturing Serious Danger researchers in white coats telling Iowan tourists to walk down the platform, observing them from behind one-way mirrors (clutching clipboards and stopwatchers) to see how far they can get before they get knifed.

("Look! Mildred made it all the way to the newsstand, but Fred got pickpocketed by the conductor's car.")

But this is indeed a pretty poor FPP -- it's a neat story, but the rant and its disconnection from reality, combined with a humor site link, pretty much kills it.
posted by Vidiot at 11:58 AM on December 16, 2003


And they can stay there, as far as I’m concerned. When you're an out-of-towner, or just use the subway once a year, buskers are so quaint and picturesque. But if you’re a commuter who rides the subway every day of your life, they are stupendous annoyance, preventing you from concentrating on your reading, and generally adding to irritating cacaphony of an already inhuman environment. The subway is not some cute audition club for aspiring mimes.
Your above "comment" reads like a rant about the subway being horrible. How do your links support this, me being an out-of-towner? (lived in big cites, second link is hatred or a joke)
Take a look at your first link: looks like the subway is a beneficial place for aspiring artist finding work opportunities else where besides the subway.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:00 PM on December 16, 2003


Only losers take subways.
posted by Postroad at 12:00 PM on December 16, 2003


The only difference between this post and the myriad of other posts is that you forgot the [more inside]. I loved it and it gave me a chuckle.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:06 PM on December 16, 2003


Okay, sorry everybody. I thought the two links, with the rant serving as a connector, were an amusing juxtaposition. I didn't mean to trigger "'Sonny' Love' vs. 'Cassius' Wilson" Pt. 2.
posted by Faze at 12:10 PM on December 16, 2003


dude, i totally dug the amusing juxtaposition...nice work
posted by jacobsee at 12:12 PM on December 16, 2003


Okay, sorry everybody..

No need to apologize. I thought the post was amusing.

No other city on earth ships nearly as much human freight from Queens to Manhattan on a daily basis.
posted by eddydamascene at 12:13 PM on December 16, 2003


Wait, this woman is doing this with her own money?!? Her life's savings? When she's 65 she'll be busking for her cat food.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:53 PM on December 16, 2003


Subway musicians that I like: the accordian guy in the tunnel between the 7 Train and Port Authority, um... maybe that's it.

There are lots of subway musicians that aggravate me, but whatever. There are lots of things during my commute that aggravate me.

I do watch out for crazy people who might want to push someone in front of a train, I must admit. That's why I like to walk more, and take the subway less.
posted by dammitjim at 1:03 PM on December 16, 2003


I thought the two links,
Almost thought you didn't live there. Juxtaposition, your word of the day, excellent.
Any other "juxtaposition" links or sites like the post?

this with her own money?!? Her life's savings? The article discussed she did this previously along with her friends & co workers. Also being Korean she may handle her buisness differently from the American way. Not sure the whole set up; have seen: we buy you a buisness, years later you help us buy them a buisness.(something like that) This may be her future retirement money when she profits from these musicians too.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:09 PM on December 16, 2003


My favorite is the "Puppet Guy" in the Union Sq. L stop, or the "Bag Pipe Guy" in the Union Sq. turnstiles area who plays season appropriate bag pipe music - such as jingle bells. all the time. The Chinese man playing a sort of dulcimer at Grand Station 4/5/6 is good too.

The-abso-fucking-worst "buskers" are the "dance" act at the 34th St/Herald Sq. N/R/W who shout out "Showtime" or "It's Showtime" loudly while prancing around forever, without actually performing - or dancing.
posted by plemeljr at 1:14 PM on December 16, 2003


But if you’re a commuter who rides the subway every day of your life, they are stupendous annoyance, preventing you from concentrating on your reading, and generally adding to irritating cacaphony of an already inhuman environment.

Depends on the performer. I've seen some that were terrific. Others, like the guy under Times Square with the bad neck, with the miniature animatronic hula girls on his keyboard, who are entertainingly bizarre. Then there's the guy on my commute home (vidiot and languagehat have the same commute, they can vouch for this): a blind accordion player who will mangle "New York, New York" or "Jingle Bells" then say in the grimmest Eastern European accent imaginable "Your donaaations are greaaaatly appreciated." He's merely annoying. So it's like any open mike. But then again I have an abnormally high appreciation for the absurd & serendiptious. But then again, I have to, since that describes my life.
posted by jonmc at 1:14 PM on December 16, 2003


see, jonmc, the subway is not an "open mike" night, it's a public amenity, which should be ruled by courtesy and reciprocity -- of which the enforced listening to self-selected entertainers is a gross violation. All kidding aside, the NYC subway is in fact a model of graciousness, where millions of people follow unspoken -- perhaps even unacknowledged to themselves --rules of consideration that make this wonderful system actually possible. Buskers, however, are like those guys who sit with their legs spread infuriatingly wide, forcing the people to either side of them to rub knees, or scrunch up defensively -- they cheaters, and violators of the folk codes that rule this unique public realm.
posted by Faze at 1:27 PM on December 16, 2003


Yah, I realized after hitting "post" that my sarcasm didn't come through too well. I was picturing Serious Danger researchers in white coats telling Iowan tourists to walk down the platform, observing them from behind one-way mirrors (clutching clipboards and stopwatchers) to see how far they can get before they get knifed.

Dude, wtf is your problem with Iowa?

We are a thoroughly modern state with nice people. Quite a bit more cultured then you, mr. elitist sheltered boy.
posted by delmoi at 1:27 PM on December 16, 2003


But, Faze, they also enrich and enliven the subway-riding experience (at least the good ones, and often the bad ones are amusing). They're part of the "folk code", whether you like it or not.

My absolute favorite is the guy who dances with the mannequin at the 34th St./Herald Square station. (and plemeljr is right -- those guys (the "Float Committee") suck. They once told me that they wouldn't "start the show" until I gave them money. Yeah, right.)

and I was kidding, delmoi. Iowa is very nice, and I've enjoyed the small towns there. It just also seems to be New Yorker shorthand for "tourists who are unfamiliar with big-city mores." No offense meant. (and have I mentioned Iowa before? Can't recall having done so, though that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.)
posted by Vidiot at 1:36 PM on December 16, 2003


I love DC subway musicians. But they have to restrict their activities to the sidewalk outside the stations. That is, except for Singing Asian Jesus Man.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:40 PM on December 16, 2003


Oh, and the deer. Seriously.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:42 PM on December 16, 2003


"Your donaaations are greaaaatly appreciated."

This thread was worth it just to get the accordion player immortalized. This guy has white hair and a potato face and looks like he stepped out of some horribly symbolic Balkan movie; I can never decide whether I'm more amused or annoyed. But the guy I really hate is Lloyd. "Hi, you all know me by now, my name is Lloyd, I'm losing my fingers, I coach basketball and my team is getting ready for the semifinals [this part of the spiel is always the same, month in and month out, whether there's b-ball being played or not, as far as I can tell] and we can really use your donations, every little bit helps, but you know me, if you don't have change, have a SMILE!" And then he goes down the car commenting on everyone's expression. "Oooh, that's a pretty smile, best smile I've seen today! No smiles this side of the car, must be havin' a hard day at work, huh? Smile now, thank God it's [fill in day of the week]!" I keep my face buried in a newspaper and try to resist the urge to trip him.

On preview: The guy with the mannequin is amazing.
posted by languagehat at 1:42 PM on December 16, 2003


see, jonmc, the subway is not an "open mike" night, ....

Faze, the entire city of New York is an open mike night. That's one of the reasons I love it. Anybody who's lived here for any length of time, grasps this concept.
posted by jonmc at 1:44 PM on December 16, 2003


Or to put it another way:

The New York Transit Authority: You'll laugh, You'll cry, You'll stand clear of the closing doors, please....
posted by jonmc at 1:46 PM on December 16, 2003


Vidiot, thank you for your comment. But as I said, buskers may amuse and enhance the subway experience for the occasional user, just as hearing a celebrity voice asking you to buckle your seat belt in the back of a cab was amusing the first couple of times you heard it. But for the daily subway commuter, trying to achieve some measure of mental privacy on the way home (buskers rarely get up early), even the best subway musician is an intrusion.
posted by Faze at 1:48 PM on December 16, 2003


Faze, I ride the subway every frapping day, and I don't find most of them annoying at all.
posted by jonmc at 1:52 PM on December 16, 2003


they are stupendous annoyance, preventing you from concentrating on your reading, and generally adding to irritating cacaphony of an already inhuman environment. The subway is not some cute audition club for aspiring mimes.

New York, New York - where even the mimes are cacaphonic.
posted by pyramid termite at 2:01 PM on December 16, 2003


I used the subway pretty regularly and always enjoyed buskers and other performers. But then, I was a poor person once too, and never felt the need to remove myself from the less-fortunate. Although many of the buskers are really excellent musicians, especially that girl who used to play violin at Times Square every MWF.
posted by luriete at 2:02 PM on December 16, 2003


I thought the concept everybody grasped who lived in NYC any length of time was that you can't tell anybody else what NYC is all about. I'm with Faze: those guys are a pain. They blast straight through your headphones, the blind accordion "Auld Lang Syne" guy on the N dares to look indignant when he whacks you with his stick, and don't even get me started on Lloyd.
posted by muckster at 2:03 PM on December 16, 2003


I'm a daily subway commuter. I've live in New York for a long time.

I like the musicians. I give them money, sometimes even when they're not that great. Why? They give this place flavor. I see the same guys doing the Sunshine/Rain acapella thing like twenty times, and occasionally, I want to hear them and am glad that they are there. I like being Grand Central and hearing someone play Somewhere Over the Rainbow on a Chinese harp. I like the Woman playing the saw in Time Square. The guy, late night, Bedford Stop on the L-Train, who tirelessly plays the fiddle into the wee hours.

If you don't like this, then you simply don't have love for what this city is, one grand and beautiful cacophany. You can spin around and never hear the same thing. And you know what it is and it isn't a big audition. When you have art, it wants to be heard, be it with music, words, or any other media. I am glad that this city is swelling with it. I am glad that it is so uncontained that it spills out everywhere. A lot of people don't get the chance to hear live music. Here, it's in the air, people offering it to you for very little more than your ears opening up to them, maybe a symbolic coin tossed their way.

I am glad this music is there, and if it inspires hatred and annoyance in you, then I am sorry. Maybe some day, when you truly know what this city is, its soul, then you might be able to love what you hear.

Just listen. Not just to the sound. But to everything beyond it.
posted by Dukebloo at 2:13 PM on December 16, 2003


I think I know what the problem is: for those people who confuse the public and the private, and feel that being in a public place is the appropriate time to wall onesself off from the community around you - whether with a celphone, headphones, or a paperback - buskers might be a distraction to your little insular world. To those people who see being IN public as a responsibility to our neighbors, as fulfilling our role as citydwellers, as part of a vibrant and interesting community that has room for everybody - to these people, buskers are our neighbors, our friends, our entertainers.

If you take off your headphones for a year or two and try living in the world and not just observing it cooly over the top of the latest Michael Crichton or whatever it is you're reading these days, you might learn something - or, as an earlier poster noted, you might just find it easier to move to Westchester.
posted by luriete at 2:17 PM on December 16, 2003


pyramid termite, there is such a thing as visual cacaphony. (Not that I've ever seen a mime on the subway. I put it in because it's always open season on mimes, and I was looking for a jokey and attention-getting phrase.)
posted by Faze at 2:17 PM on December 16, 2003


Noise-cancelling headphones and the latest issue of the New Yorker help to bridge the two worlds. When it's someone that's good or interesting-looking, then I can listen. When it's Lloyd, the noise-cancelling goes on. Best purchase I ever made.
posted by Vidiot at 2:20 PM on December 16, 2003


Faze: To look at your post from a practical standpoint, go fuck yourself. Better yet, move to a gated community and spare urban dwellers your unnecessary vitriol. If you don't have the internal ability to concentrate completely on your reading in the face of chaos, yours is the mind of a monkey. The rest of us public transpo perusers read just fine when faced with banal yuppies carrying on about some new LL Bean wardrobe to their friends in the loudest register or other interventions. It's a little known device in the human head called concentration and self-filtering. By the same token, who gave you the goddam right to declare the subway some unbearably noiseless ride? You're like that kid in that old Twilight Zone episode who wanted everything his own way and had the magical powers to back it up. How the hell can you go through life being so solipsistic and unadaptable?

Even more so, if you cannot appreciate the beauty of a spontaneous busker or an impromptu passenger, if you cannot marvel at the eccentricities of the human race, then you, sir, are no different than the moronic goons who look at the stars, or a majestic sunset, or a Chagall painting and respond, "So what?"
posted by ed at 2:20 PM on December 16, 2003


Dude, wtf is your problem with Iowa?

We are a thoroughly modern state with nice people. Quite a bit more cultured then you, mr. elitist sheltered boy.


That's the biggest load of bullshit I've read all day, and I should know.
posted by angry modem at 2:26 PM on December 16, 2003


And if I were elitist, I doubt I'd be riding the subway at least twice a day.
posted by Vidiot at 2:30 PM on December 16, 2003


And if I were elitist, I doubt I'd be riding the subway at least twice a day.

As opposed to driving a Hummer?
posted by yerfatma at 2:37 PM on December 16, 2003


There was a subway musician in Capetown that I actually really liked quite alot. He was blind and played a flute very well. On my last day there, I stopped by and gave him all of the change I'd collected over the course of my year in South Africa (its an old habit). I said thanks for the entertainment and went on my way leaving him something like twenty pounds of change.

The most bizarre one I saw was a very, very skinny kid who pretended to be playing a flute but it was actually his skinny leg he was playing and whistling. It was very creepy and horribly unnerving to see just how skinny he was. I only saw him once.
posted by fenriq at 2:53 PM on December 16, 2003


I like to think of the buskers as pigeons. Some are really sweet and nice to look at; but sometimes I get annoyed with them if they flock toward me; sometimes I just want to kick one. But New York would not be the same without them; buskers, as well as pigeons, are an indelible part of the city. You can choose to like them or not, but they aren't going anywhere.


My opinion is to maybe try to enjoy them as part of the city's aura.
posted by plemeljr at 3:01 PM on December 16, 2003


HAHA, luriete, ed, etc.....great! that's what i love about living in NY - righteously indignant snotty anti-snottieness. listening to people say the city is great because of the variety (or some variations thereon) in a post crapping on someone's view of what the city is about/not about/whatever. Brilliant! ...especially in a post that maybe just maybe was a little tongue in cheek to begin with.

hee hee hee overly serious urbanites. it never gets old.
posted by zaack at 3:06 PM on December 16, 2003


Are the really great Asian violinists still playing on the platform for the R at Times Square?
posted by Seth_Messinger at 3:07 PM on December 16, 2003


Anyone else familiar with the middle-aged guy with the amazing voice who does really high quality country covers? Last time I saw him was last spring at 59th and Lex.
posted by anathema at 3:08 PM on December 16, 2003


There's this guy (in Portland, where we have no subway) who hangs out at Pioneer Square and smokes a cigarette and stumbles around playing on his shitty electric guitar into headphones. He does it a lot. Always looks totally zoned out, cigarette just jutting out of his mouth and his eyes squinted nearly shut. Playin' his guitar. It's awesome.

And then there's the dude with the bagpipes.

Buskers rule.
posted by cortex at 3:11 PM on December 16, 2003


> As opposed to driving a Hummer?

Elitist possibly. Elite, certainly not. Decent upstanding Protestant persons of background have an old black Buick or Chrysler and a driver (n.b. "driver"; chauffeurs are for pimps.)
posted by jfuller at 3:16 PM on December 16, 2003


Anyone interested in the recent hubbub in Boston between the MBTA and subway musicians should check this out. More background via Google.
posted by anathema at 3:33 PM on December 16, 2003


Although many of the buskers are really excellent musicians, especially that girl who used to play violin at Times Square every MWF.

We have one of those here in Seattle; she's usually out in front of Pacific Place, or in the plaza at Westlake. She plays well, has an extensive repetoire (I've never heard her playing the same piece twice, at least), and seems to genuinely enjoy what she's doing. It's a nice addition to the downtown environment.

...but to make up for her, there's the guy at the Pike Place Market who plays an acoustic guitar and sings with an appallingly harsh, nasal voice. First time I heard him I stopped and listened for a couple of minutes just to make sure he wasn't doing it on purpose - but no, he really is that bad.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:52 PM on December 16, 2003


Thanks, anathema. I take the T regularly and I was outraged when I heard about the ban. Apparently, I wasn't alone.

(puts on Mary Lou Lord's "Subway")
posted by swerve at 3:57 PM on December 16, 2003


I stopped by and gave him all of the change I'd collected over the course of my year in South Africa...leaving him something like twenty pounds of change.

I admire the sentiment, but maybe you could have converted your change to bills, if only to spare a blind man from having to lug twenty pounds of coins home?

I kid--I think it's a great idea, and I'm going to make an effort to empty my pockets for buskers more often, if only to encourage them, thus pissing Faze off even more.
posted by turaho at 3:58 PM on December 16, 2003


As long as we can all agree that the idiot Naked Cowboy jackass is a complete and utter waste of space, oxygen and time. That's all the really matters.

And yes, I'm well aware that he's not a subway performer but a demented retread in diaper-like tighty-whiteys.
posted by fenriq at 4:17 PM on December 16, 2003


And Turaho, if I'd had the time I would happily changed the coins in for bills. I think it was metric so I think that made it alot easier to carry home.
posted by fenriq at 4:19 PM on December 16, 2003


I love this quote:

"I can't imagine a woman crying over me unless I did something wrong," the blues man says
posted by Cedric at 4:32 PM on December 16, 2003


The lat time I was in San Francisco, there was a older black man in a tuxedo and top hat across from the St. Francis Hotel on the corner of Union Square every day, singing, tap dancing and telling jokes. He was great.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:36 PM on December 16, 2003


As long as we can all agree that the idiot Naked Cowboy jackass is a complete and utter waste of space, oxygen and time. That's all that really matters.

Of course. (His website is frightening.)
posted by Vidiot at 4:44 PM on December 16, 2003


Another of my favorites was a guy I used to see in London. He played sax at the bottom of the long escalator to the Piccadilly Line at the Piccadilly Circus station...and he use the reverberation of the escalator tube and tiled hallways to create harmonies with himself. Great stuff.
posted by Vidiot at 4:50 PM on December 16, 2003


You know, I think that unintentionally, these comments sum up the basic two reactions to a place.

I just visited New York City for the first time this last thanksgiving. I loved it. It wasn't even the specific sites we visited in general -- it was the sights that were everywhere. Different people from all kinds of places, tourists, residents, a lot of concentrated activity, energy, and life. My Dad didn't like it much at all -- the subways puzzled him, he didn't like the crowds, he sees it as a dirty chaotic place that won't adapt to him and he doesn't want to adapt to. Funny how the same experience had a high value for me and low for him.

I've also been to Iowa a handful of times for visits as long as a week. I'm not much on its winter appearance, and I can see how some people might find it understimulating, but I thought it was absolutely beautiful -- I finally understood the phrase "O beautiful for spacious skies, and amber waves of grain." Or Dar William's "ethereal bimorphic landscape." And I got to see something of the rural/heartland values that are supposed to be part of the core of America's soul, but sometimes get lost underneath a pop culture of deals, sales, and flash... anyway, I'd go back, and I'd even consider moving there.

Most places have odd or unique features that you can learn to see and love, or curse and hate....
posted by weston at 4:59 PM on December 16, 2003


I don't mind the musicians, but I hate a significant number of commuters.
posted by subgenius at 4:59 PM on December 16, 2003


I like one guy who's often in the tunnel between the 7 and the Bryant Park F/V/B/D station (or "the James Joyce tunnel," thanks to the new inscriptions). He's a middle-aged Rastafarian-looking guy who plays guitar to a prerecorded bass line. It ends up sounding very '81 instrumental postpunk, to the point where it often gets the Cure's "A Forest" stuck in my head when I pass him.

I just moved to Portland from NYC, and though the transit system here is lovely, it's not quite the same. (Though I do like how 85% of Portland bus riders shout "Thank you!" to the driver as they get off the bus -- at the *far* end of the bus.)
posted by lisa g at 5:24 PM on December 16, 2003


new york buskers are class.
theres the one with the mexican flags on her keyboard up from greenwich village who is woeful but very enjoyable..
and i really enjoyed this black guy at east 4th st station who had this guy on electric guitar with him singing 'love and happiness' at a miserable looking bunch of commuters...theres a guy with bagpipes there ? oh no.
theres way too many bagpipe beggars over here , we'll swap you for the breakdancers and plastic drummers.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:26 PM on December 16, 2003


bloody hell , i think thats the guitarist i saw with the singer.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:27 PM on December 16, 2003


There are no buskers in Korea. None. Even in Seoul. Koreans would for the most part have no idea what to do some weird alien playing unKorean music in a public space.

So : what the fuck?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:23 PM on December 16, 2003


i like the guy that plays electric guitar after yankee games on River/Jerome Ave. i always give him a buck on the way to my car. he's always playing Hendrix or Zeppelin. but not that guy who plays the trombone outside of the parking deck. he's not very good.
posted by goddam at 7:32 PM on December 16, 2003


My favourite busker (aside from the Stoned Guitar Guy that cortex mentioned above) is a guy who plays the trumpet near the county courthouse in Portland. Every time I hear him play my day gets a bit cheerier.

I'm amazed that people don't like buskers. That's like not thinking bunnies are cute.
posted by cmonkey at 7:34 PM on December 16, 2003


Hmmm. The next time I try busking, I may wear a pancake on my head, just to see what happens.
posted by namespan at 8:14 PM on December 16, 2003


what i'm sick of is the ads. companies paying for representation in a public-owned space. that's fucked up. if i'm going to be bombarded with some crap on the subway at least make it not a budweiser commercial.
posted by goneill at 8:15 PM on December 16, 2003


*tunelessy plays harmonica while urine runs down his leg*
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:33 PM on December 16, 2003


You'll laugh, You'll cry, You'll stand clear of the closing doors, please.

Jonmc, thank you. That was a definite beverage-spewer.
posted by brownpau at 9:55 PM on December 16, 2003


I wait for a subway train about 6 times a day sometimes listening to my own music, sometimes reading, sometimes just lookin around. It's not at all inhuman and I dig the buskers even the sucky ones. I loved the drunken ass 4 am I went down to the platform humming amazing grace to myself then realized someone on the opposite track was playing it on the accordion.
posted by maniabug at 11:38 PM on December 16, 2003


My favorite was not in the subway but in Washington Square Park. Some bearded old guy with a piano! He spent a lot of time tuning it, and making joking insults to passers by. Ripping the heads or hands off anyone who DARED strike one of his keys!

He played wonderfully well, but was as much comedian as musician. This was back in the 80's.
posted by Goofyy at 5:10 AM on December 17, 2003


Speaking as the original poster of this thrad, I have to say that the two things that shock me about the responses here are the accusations of elitism and indifference to the "poor." By way of background, I should say that I've busked myself on the streets of Manhattan and other cities (never the subway), and came to realize -- once I'd come down from the egotistic fever dream of my own undiscovered musical wonderfulness -- that I was making myself a public annoyance, and that I had no right to impose my stupid songs and human body on the public sidewalks. If anyone was cutting himself off from the life of the city, it was not the passers by and public who scorned colorful, little me, it was me who was showing selfish indifference to the people of the city by imposing my own self-importance on their daily rounds. So I stopped playing on streets, bit the bullet, and made my way to the clubs. As far as buskers and street musicians representing the "poor," I can only say that one would have to be incredibly middle class and sheltered to believe that poverty has anything to do with the motivation of street musicians. If you're poor, you get a job. Jobs are really easy to get. Especially if you don't hang out in a subway station all day.
posted by Faze at 6:34 AM on December 17, 2003


I like the old guy who has this tape player contraption strapped to his back and a speaker strapped in front and it plays the backing instrumentation to his trumpet - he does "New York, New York" a lot. No matter how long I've lived here I still get a little frisson of excitement whenever I hear that opening "bomp bomp badada" bit.

But my favorite is this guy I've only seen once, about a year ago. He had on a cowboy hat and western shirt, and this big foam rubber horse costume thingamabob around his waist to make it look like he was riding it. It had fake legs dangling on either side and he sang a sort of doo-woppy version of "Happy Trails" at the top of his lungs while gyrating his hips in this way that made the legs swing all over the place. It was really, REALLY funny visually - he had everyone in the car in stitches. Has anyone here ever seen him?
posted by apollonia6 at 7:37 AM on December 17, 2003


By way of background, I should say that I've busked myself... and came to realize -- once I'd come down from the egotistic fever dream of my own undiscovered musical wonderfulness -- that I was making myself a public annoyance...

Aha, that explains a lot. What we have here is the ferocity of a convert: the ex-smoker who can't shut up about the evils of nicotine, the apostate from Catholicism who rants about popery and corrupt priests. Faze, I'm glad not busking makes you feel better about yourself, but if you have the slightest shred of ability to let light in from outside, you should be realizing by now that many people, possibly a majority, do not find street/subway musicians a "public annoyance," and the longer you go on with your stubborn assertions to the contrary the more of a fool you make yourself look.

Not subway-related, but there used to be a great tenor player at the northeast corner of Sixth and 53rd; I'd be on my way to MOMA or the Donnell and have to stand there for ten minutes or so, unable to tear myself away. Unlike most street musicians, even good ones, he rigorously avoided "Hava Nagila" and "The Godfather theme" and stuck to classic jazz tunes and free improv. I once asked him if he played in clubs and he shrugged and said he used to but "didn't dig the club scene." Who knows what his story was, but I miss him.
posted by languagehat at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2003


you should be realizing by now that many people, possibly a majority, do not find street/subway musicians a "public annoyance," and the longer you go on with your stubborn assertions to the contrary the more of a fool you make yourself look.

My visual image for the above phrase is similar to the eyes-pried-open scene in clockwork orange.
You should be standing over them yelling
"watch the street musicians!" "don't you turn away!" "you MUST love them!" "you WILL love them!"
I prefer to reserve judgement myself, I have taken the headphones off and listened,
but most of the time I prefer having the headphones on. Live and let live, ya know.

(important tip for non-NYCers, Mary Lou Lord they ain't, if that's what you are picturing, you are quite off)
posted by milovoo at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2003


> How the hell can you go through life being so solipsistic and unadaptable?

ed, why can't you adapt to faze, then? You're urging adaptability, exemplifying its opposite, and apparently unaware of it. Just the latest poor zombie to get possessed the Spirit of Metafilter, I guess.
posted by jfuller at 9:39 AM on December 17, 2003


If you hate Metafilter so much, jfuller, why don't you leave?
posted by UKnowForKids at 9:43 AM on December 17, 2003


Freedom is really the freedom to do wrong. I do not like the disturbance of the peace either, but it is a public space, which almost by definition means it is going to suck. To limit their freedom is to limit your own, and that is a bad idea.

Get an iPod like everyone else.
posted by thirteen at 10:00 AM on December 17, 2003


UK, visiting mefi helps me avoid the cocooning syndrome. Helps you too, of course.
posted by jfuller at 10:03 AM on December 17, 2003


I live in san Francisco, and I really *like* the street musicians. I take the cable car home from work a few times a week, and it's cool to walk down Market street in the evening to the sound of a jazz saxophone in the background. Very cinematic.

though the single coolest street musician in all of SF: The guy who plays drums on about two dozen buckets. He's always got the sign up about collecting money to be on the Tonight Show or something. Anyway, he's *amazing*. I'd love to hear what he could do with a real set of drums.
posted by antimony at 10:21 AM on December 17, 2003


milovoo, I'm not at all clear by what reasoning you translate "not everybody hates subway musicians" into "you MUST love them!" "you WILL love them!", but I'm all ears if you can explain it to me. It seems to me that it's Faze who's shouting "you DON'T love them!" "you CAN'T love them!"

Live and let live, ya know.

I couldn't agree more.
posted by languagehat at 10:29 AM on December 17, 2003


jfuller: UK, visiting mefi helps me avoid the cocooning syndrome. Helps you too, of course.

I tried reading that there Inter-net page you typed in, but it was written in some kind of funny moon-man language. They were all like, "Aufen sie schlossen der putgepukt!"

(And since I'm probably not going to check back into this thread as it further disappears down the page, I should note that my original post should be read with a hearty dollop of sarcasm, noting my disdain for the "America: love it or leave it!" school of thought.)
posted by UKnowForKids at 11:20 PM on December 17, 2003


Notes From the Underground
What the ailing record industry can learn from a successful subway musician.
posted by y2karl at 12:05 AM on December 18, 2003


Are you saying that:

Aha, that explains a lot. What we have here is the ferocity of a convert: the ex-smoker who can't shut up about the evils of nicotine, the apostate from Catholicism who rants about popery and corrupt priests. Faze, I'm glad not busking makes you feel better about yourself, but if you have the slightest shred of ability to let light in from outside, you should be realizing by now that many people, possibly a majority, do not find street/subway musicians a "public annoyance," and the longer you go on with your stubborn assertions to the contrary the more of a fool you make yourself look.

is equal to

not everybody hates subway musicians

really?

I thought phrases like "can't shut up...", "you should be realizing by now..." and
"slightest shred of ability to let light in from outside..." seemed just a bit over the top, perhaps.
You don't see that?

If you had actually said something like "not everybody hates subway musicians" than my response would be "yup"
posted by milovoo at 7:41 AM on December 18, 2003


Faze has been bitching and trolling about New York City ever since he got to MeFi - and, I imagine, ever since he left town. He's one of those sad sort who desperately wants you to believe that he left because the city wasn't good enough for him, when typically it's the other way around.
posted by nicwolff at 10:03 AM on December 18, 2003 [1 favorite]


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