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New York City MTA Subway Music - Pots-N-Pans

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 2/13/2005 - www.Littleviews.com ]

New York Subway Music, Pots-N-Pans

>>  Prior to establishing Music Under New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (that's the MTA New York subway system) was host to a motley group of opportunistic musicians, great, good, and awful.

Since 1985, however, the MTA raised the quality of subway entertainment by holding the subway-version of the American Idol series, except that these winners perform underground in hopes of being discovered by producers and earn money by soliciting tips while waiting for fame to take hold.

The result is that today, the NYC subway system offers diverse entertainment, most of which is officially sanctioned and all of which is more than worth the price of a subway ticket. Performers range in style from concert-quality to street-innovation; some with ethnic instruments and tunes from their homeland.

If you're interested in music, and seek unusual sounds as a hobby, make a point to travel the New York subway system during peak commuting hours. Stations that often include entertainment are LIRR Penn Station, Times Square, 34th Street/6th Avenue (C, E and A line), Grand Central (various tunnels) and Union Square. Musicians (sanctioned or not), however, perform all over the system. In Brooklyn, for example, non-sanctioned musicians (many very good) often play for tips on subway trains.

In addition to random-acts-of-music throughout the subway system, Music Under New York (MUNY) Arts for Transit arranges special events, with their web page providing a calendar, music clips, and audition information.

That said, I commute regularly cross-town between the 42nd Street Port Authority, Grand Central, and Lexington. Morning and evening, I enjoy such instrumentals as Peruvian flutes, a concert violinist, a Russian accordionist, a steel drum player, a Chinese string instrumentalist, a Cuban dancer who tangos with life-sized puppets, assorted break-dancers, traditional African drummers (particularly haunting around the 7-line), gospel singers, sax players, guitarists (folk and rock), didgeridoo, a Cajun squeeze box and wash-board specialist, paint-bucket percussionists, and the ultra-fabulous Pots-N-Pans, pictured here.

MTA Subway Musician - Music Under New York

The problem with enjoying music while commuting is that commuters like me are in a rush. I, for example, rarely stop to listen when making early-morning connections. If a musician I like is there daily, however, I do applaud and smile when passing by, then contribute a once-a-week tip. Some of the musicians sell CDs, providing an easy way to take a bit of New York's music home and making it easier for producers to collect audition materials.

If the hallways and platforms where they perform are very narrow and rush-hour is in full-force, stopping to listen is difficult, even when the music is outstanding. Missing a subway connection just to soak up a tune is never done of, except, of course, for Pots-N-Pans . . .

Tony Potts (a stage name) makes music out of found materials, such as a melodic car brake, refrigerator drawers, a metal sink, numerous oven racks, old pots, and one "real" drum. More than a percussionist, the ever-smiling Mr. Potts rings music out of all these parts that infuses his listeners with instant energy, if not pure joy.

I've heard him perform twice this year, the first time in a Port Authority corroder and the second (pictured), on a narrow, 7-line platform in the Grand Central Terminal. The Port Authority location is a performance-friendly large hallway where dozens of tip-generating commuters can easily congregate. The Grand Central Terminal subway platform, however, is where people push to board trains. At that location, I saw his audience actually skip their next ride in order to continue listening; a rare event that attests to how good he sounds!

It breaks my heart that he does not sell CDs because I'd purchase every one. This lack of CDs might become a problem for him in the future, as, according to a September 5, 2004 article in the The Press of Atlantic City, he plays in New York because he hopes to be discovered. The article indicates that he's already been seen in various movies and that he believes he's poised to hit the big time. (The article, by the way, is available for $2.50 from the newspaper, but if you catch Mr. Potts' act, you can read the copy that's displayed on his blue cart.)

But whether or not producers sign him up, his kitchen-sink donation bucket fills quickly with cash from his appreciative audience. When tips slow down, he encourages donations by weaving a chorus of "put the money in bucket" into his percussionist work.

While I don't know where he'll be next, I recommend that you ask around. If you miss him in New York, however, it might be possible to find him during the summer in Atlantic City, NJ, at a city-appointed spot. In previous years, he appeared on Florida Avenue, in front of the Boardwalk Hall's West Hall.

Questions or comments?
Karen Little

Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 2/13/2005. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.

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