Thursday, 10 September 2015
It’s that strange time between rush hour and midmorning, where it feels like the city has taken a moment to catch its breath, and you can take your time. The subway car is pleasingly uncrowded, and I watch the street numbers rise steadily as I make my way north from the West Village.
At one stop, the car doors open and two buskers enter, one of whom is carrying an electric piano, which hangs from a duct tape strap around his neck. I’ve seen plenty of buskers with guitars and banjos before, but this is the first time I’ve seen anybody manhandling a decent-sized keyboard on public transport, and I’m impressed.
I’m already on their side before the pianist begins to play and, on his own, delicately sings “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5. His companion hovers nearby, leaning against the pole and holding a gold foil party bag. This is a little incongruous, and makes them look as if they’ve just come from somebody’s birthday; like they've decided to bring the good vibes from a party along with them as they wend their way home.
Then the guy with the bag joins in the singing, with spot-on harmonies, and I feel a tingle all the way down my neck. It’s such a beautiful thing, this well-sung song, and I’m half-sorry and half-glad that there aren’t more than half a dozen other passengers with me in the car to share the experience.
Still singing, the buskers start to sway down the car, and I drop a couple of dollars into the gold party bag - partly in thanks and partly as encouragement – and receive a warm and friendly fist-bump from the singer in return. My stop approaches, and I stand, instinctively swaying along to the music, humming along to the harmonies, and tapping my feet.
Often with buskers, however much you may enjoy their music, you don’t want to engage too much with the performer. This morning, thanks to these singers and their happy music, there is a fabulously warm feeling in the subway car, and I see several other riders also give generously and then exchange glances and satisfied nods with their fellow passengers.
For a strange moment, we disparate strangers are united by the music, and smile at each other, swaying to the rocking of the train and the harmonies of the singers. At my stop, and with a nod of thanks back to the performers, which they return, I leave the car with a warm glow that I subsequently carry with me for quite some time, happily humming “I’ll be there…” as I jump up the steps into the morning sunlight.