Sunday, October 26, 2008

Underground Musicians

There's always free entertainment at subway stations, especially at the main hubs. We've been impressed by some of the musicians, of all ages and from all over the world, that keep stressed out New Yorkers entertained while waiting for the crowded subways to whisk them away, and all they want in return is a dollar or some of your spare change. For example, last week at the Columbus Circle station, I heard a young musician doing a great soulful rendition of "What a Wonderful World" that I think Mr. Armstrong would have been pleased with. Some musicians are bypassing the image-centric record industry game by selling their music directly to the people.

This musician seemed to get more attention than any other we've seen - Michael Shulman of Black Violin at the Union Square station. It's hard to miss this guy because of the large crowd surrounding him and his theatrical moves with his long wavy hair flinging around, taking you back to the days of the heavy metal hair bands of the 1980s. Except this hair tossing headbanger is a shred violinist from Moscow, Russia, playing electric violin set against music as diverse as rock to pop (this unfortunately includes the music mess that is Britney Spears).

At first you're not too sure what you're listening to or what you're watching. He's holding what appears to be a violin but it sounds like an electric guitar, and he's wearing tight, shiny black leggings and doing moves that seem part Lord of the Dance and part how you might have danced in your bedroom while watching Headbangers Ball. Even if you're in a rush to catch your next train, you can't help but to stop, watch and listen.

For a $10 donation, he'll give you one of his CDs. When I went to drop $1 in his black tote, I noticed some crisp 20-dollar-bills in there so he seemed to be doing good. His music was definitely unique and he had energy and intensity that drew the crowd in. If only he could have played his electric violin to Beat It or Thriller.

Thank you subway musicians for entertaining us so that we're doing more than staring into the abyss or watching the rats roam around the tracks.