I had an insane social schedule last week – six evening commitments in seven days – but the week wound down with two nights of live music, which were both lovely. The first was another show in Jason Robert Brown’s residency at Subculture, this time featuring Shoshana Bean, Chris Jackson, and Morgan Karr. The second was a small informal piano concert in my friend’s apartment building with performances by a number of friends. And then this week I attended my choir’s cabaret (which I sang in last spring) to cheer on my choir buddies.
Here’s the thing about music: I need it. Just like I need books and stories, I need it to keep me balanced. I spent one year here in the city not singing as I got adjusted to being an adult with a job, and while it was probably the right decision, I think my year was lacking because of it.
Good live music runs through you, not quite the same way that singing or playing it yourself does, but close. It charges you, energizes you, focuses you. I went into the JRB show on Friday tired after a long week but hopeful that the music would carry me through and it did. We sat halfway back, just as we did the last time, and the music filled the small venue and felt immediate in the way that music on a recording never quite can. The fast songs had me tapping my feet, the slow, sad ones had me totally engrossed, and I went home at the end in a better mood than I walked in. Sitting in front of Tituss Burgess, who was clearly also having a fantastic time, didn’t hurt!
The next night I went to my friend’s apartment and, with a number of his other friends, sat in a small common room and heard brilliant piano music and a few vocal pieces, including an original composition. It was casual – we paused between pieces a few times so our host could go let people in who were late – and intimate. I wasn’t friends with all the performers but I felt like I was because that was the tone of performances. We were all there together to eat some snacks, drink some wine, and share some music. My friend has hosted a few of these mini concerts over the last couple years and it’s always lovely to go. The photo at the top of this post is from a little photo shoot I did afterward, to capture some blurred motion images for my class.
I wrapped up my three nights of live music this week at my choir’s cabaret at the Duplex. I’d heard most of the songs before at our open mics, which serve as audition times for the cabaret, but my fellow choir members are so talented that it is always a joy to listen to them. Some of the songs were laugh-out-loud funny, others were poignant, but all were performed with a lot of heart.
But here’s the real common link between these three events: they all felt like hanging out with musician friends, even the JRB show. Because live music binds the audience and the performers together in a way that musicals and plays usually don’t. “Hedwig” does, because it breaks the fourth-wall, and “Hamilton” had its own electric energy, but at a show like JRB’s or our cabaret or my friend’s concert, there’s no fourth wall to break – we’re all in it together.
What do you like most about live music in NYC, and where do you go to hear it?