18/7: How to request the MTA rules booklet

Update: we eventually found a source of official MTA rules pamphlets. They’re available in Downtown Brooklyn at the Transit Adjudication Bureau. The address is 29 Gallatin Place, and the pamphlets are on the 3rd floor on the rack outside the elevator.

Lately we’ve been picking up an increased amount of traffic from Google. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about a flood of thousands yet! But there is definitely targeted traffic coming from buskers — and indeed, last night I got an email with a question specifically on busking legality.

So, like I mentioned yesterday, we’re planning to post more tips and resources for musicians, all the way from macro (class-action suit, you say?) to micro. Today’s subject is how to get your hands on a official booklet version of the MTA Rules of Conduct.

Many of you have seen me walking around, doing my folk-lawyer act, with my trusty blue-and-white booklet of the MTA Rules of Conduct. In fact, I often have it lying in my case while I perform:

IMG_0191

It’s pretty visible, and it may remind transit officers doing routine station-checks that my work is permitted. Who knows — maybe having it out even provides a measure of protection to other buskers? And on a more pragmatic note, I suspect it may even make me a teensy bit more money. We all know where our priorities are!

To request a booklet, go to the MTA online comment tool. You can choose from several categories of request, and I believe either “MTA-wide” or “MTA Police (non-emergency only)” would be a good bet. Then, just write that you’d like to have a copy sent to you, and include your mailing address. You’ll receive a booklet in about two weeks.

Want two copies, to create the much-desired akimbo justice effect? Just ask a friend to submit his or her own request! When it comes to law, the more, the merrier.

Busking log 11/07: flash mob contra at Grand Central

Today brought two new examples of the diversity and the high quality of the arts performed in the NYC transit system. (I suppose I’m preaching to the choir here — but it never hurts to remind ourselves of how broad this community is!)

  1. I had the chance to perform for a contra dance in Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall. Can’t beat the location! It was organized by local dancer as a “flash mob” event. The band and dancers were sauntering about incognito, then quickly lined up for a dance, and were gone again as soon as it ended. (Video will come soon). Passers-by greatly enjoyed the show, and although police did arrive to stop the dance, they were persuaded to hold off for a few minutes until it ended. Thanks, officers, for letting the music continue.
  2. In the 14th St tunnel from 7th to 6th Ave, Milo and I happened upon a truly, truly outstanding cellist. Of course, more than a few people perform the cello suites underground, some for practice, and some for art. But not all of them are, like this guy, Eastman School of Music graduates, and very few of them can light up a tunnel like this. Thanks, Wayne. Keep it up, and we’ll see you around!

Busking log 7/07: White dudes who fiddle

Sunday is typically a slow day in the subway, but today I nonetheless ventured into my shark-infested concert hall, where a few audience members were already bobbing around my cove:

he never bites, except for the smallest children

81st St is a great station on weekends, since it sees a steady stream of museum visitors headed back downtown in the afternoons. Plus, the B train only runs weekdays — meaning Saturday and Sunday offer extra-long lulls between the screeches of the MTA’s apparently never-maintained brakes.

I had hardly been there ten minutes before a guy came up, holding a violin case, and said he played fiddle. “Which kinds,” I asked. “All kinds!” Having thusly established our shared repertoire, he popped open his case, and we shared a pretty solid set of tunes. It turns out that my new pal, whose name is Douglas, acts, performs, and sings in New York, and has some experience working in the subway as well. You can check out his site here!

Although Douglas had to hurry off to a gig, I kept having a great time at 81st, playing some good tunes and explaining the absence of the B train to visitors from several of Europe’s finest countries.

After two hours, I was feeling pretty played-out and took off for home. By the 14th St transfer to the L, my mind was already more on finding sustenance than on music. But lo and behold: as I stepped of our train, I saw a violinist killing Bach’s fugue in G minor across the platform.

Having previously thought myself the owner of the subway G minor fugue market, I hurried over to check it out. Turns out it was none other than Filip Pogády, violinist extraodinaire, who I had met last summer after he watched me perform at 81st St.

He’s been very active with a burgeoning solo career, but is still finding time to perform underground as well. MTA riders have lots to complain about, but read this guy’s bio — low-quality violin concerts is one problem they don’t have!

Just a good reminder that, while Joshua Bell may only have played that one time, there’s a broad base of serious talent in the subway. So keep your ears peeled!

Busking log 7/04: Acrobats, t-shirts, and a charcoal mustache

On the train ride in to Manhattan this morning, I met two members of the Hybrid Movement Company, an acrobatics/circus/dance group that performs regularly in city parks. (Judging by their Facebook page, they’ve been on NBC as well!)

We shared some arrest stories, a mix of good, bad, and very amusing. There are more than a few of us out here getting arrested for art — but fortunately, I’m not the only one with a way to fight back, either. Keep it coming, acrobats!

After I caught up with the Hybriders above-ground to see their (fantastic) performance in Washington Square Park, I joined Milo in his studio to work on designs for our upcoming advocacy t-shirt. (Details coming soon on the plan for the shirts — and, not to spoil any surprises, New Yorkers should be seeing them in person soon!)

Designing was fun. Milo let me hold his charcoal pencil briefly, and I used it to draw a mustache on my face:

arr!

(My shirt was on the floor, serving as a design template). Fortunately, at least one of us took the job more seriously:

coming soon!

We’ll be receiving a sample batch of shirts tomorrow, and hope to have completed the first screenprints by Saturday night. In the meantime, let us know if you think we missed any important busking instruments in our design. There’s still time for additions!

Busking log 6/29: Y’all performers, and how I chickened out

Today was a great day to catch performances by other artists. (Seems like Saturday really brings out the best underground!) Highlights included a djembé player on the 86th 4/5, steelpan at the 42nd St ACE, and a really outstanding dance show at Union Square. Now, I don’t think I perform badly — but acts like these are doing the heavy lifting in terms of exhibiting and generating new culture. More power to you guys!

I also met a violin teacher en route from Philadelphia to Ithaca for a violin workshop. She performs herself — in the Philly subway — and said that her experiences there motivated her to become a teacher. Funny: many people assume subway performances are the end of the line for musicians. But if you listen to our stories, it turns very often that the subway is a beginning.

I had planned to play at 81st St Natural History — a station that’s known as “dangerous” for performers — for my last hour. But when I got there at 5:00, the “safe” side of the station was taken by an erhu player. I’m supposed to be standing up for my rights — but at that moment I was tired, I wasn’t dressed warmly enough for jail, and I didn’t want to stand up a friend for dinner. So today, I went home without playing.

Shucks: I guess that’s what they call intimidation. But don’t fret, 81st. I’ll be back soon!