I remember exactly where I was on 9/11 six years ago – I was on my way to a gig when the first airplane hit the towers. We could see the smoke all the way to my house.
In 2002 on the first anniversary of 9/11 the ‘September Concert’ was first organized. Basically on this day, anybody who wants to can set up and play music anywhere, to spread the message of peace through music.
I always participate in the ‘September Concert’ by playing at Times Square in the Music Under New York organized portion of the event. On this day the performers do NOT put out a donations “hat”, and we don’t hang our individual permit banners either.
On the wall at our spot at Times Square Music Under NY hung a poster listing the performers of the day.
Don Witter, the guitar player, was scheduled to play from 8am to noon. I arrived at 11:40 and while Don packed up his gear and I set up to play we caught up on each other’s news (Don had played at a wedding last week in upstate NY).
I commented on Don’s garb – he was wearing a bright red shirt and dark red pants. He told me the shirt is actually a pajama shirt… I wouldn’t have guessed it – it looked totally dressy!
As I was still setting up, Sean Grissom, the Cajun cellist (a long time subway busker) showed up. He thought he had a permit for the Times Square spot today, but he misread his permit…
Luke Ryan, the singer/songwriter who usually performs at the shuttle came to say ‘hi’ on his way home. He had just played for about 5 hours. He is worried about paying rent…
At 2pm Peter Joseph Paul, the “one man band” showed up. He was scheduled for 3pm. He plays a set of electronic drums with his feet while playing guitar and singing. People love his act. I remember when he used to play a real drum set with his feet. He then switched to an electronic drum kit, because it’s easier to carry. It takes him a long time to set up, which is why he showed up an hour early.
At 2:15 I could hear an annoying sound, like a toy harmonica. It was strident and out of tune. At first I dismissed it thinking it was just a passer by. But a few minutes later I heard it again, and again, and again… It was very distracting. It was loud and unpleasant. I looked around while playing, trying to see where the sound was coming from, but I couldn’t find the source of the sound. Finally I leaned forward to look beyond the wall to my left, and… there was the source of the noise: a guy in a wheel chair, who was watching me before for a while, set up by the wall. He was out of his wheel chair, on the ground. He wore gold clothes, and he had no legs… He was doing a handstand, while blowing a toy harmonica that made 2 different types of sounds – a sound like heavy rain (not bothersome) and a harmonica sound which was discordant.
I have never seen this guy before. Peter, who also heard the annoying sound, came to see the source of it and was also surprised. We both wondered how come the guy set up so close to our spot. He could have set up a few feet away, on the upper mezzanine, thus not out-louding us and also he would have had all the audience to himself with no competition.
Though we were annoyed at his setting-up on us (a thing the “busker code” frowns upon) we had to say his act was admirable.
Peter said that if the guy had legs he would have told him off. But how can you tell off a legless person…
Peter went over to the guy and asked him if he would mind only blowing the “heavy rain” type sound and not the strident harmonica, but the guy refused saying he needs to call attention to himself… You would think a legless guy dressed in gold doing a handstand should be an amazing enough act to draw plenty of attention on it’s own… Anyway, we decided to just let him be and do our best to ignore the noise.
Right before my time was up Meghan McGeary (singer) and Jim Bauer (guitar) of Dagmar 2 walked by on their way to playing at 14th street. It was a very hot and humid day. Meghan asked me if my hand was hurting and I explained it was the sweat bothering my hand as I grip the saw’s tip-handle. “But you have to put on your wig and hat in this heat!” I said to her (she always performs with a WWI Pilot’s hat over a long blond wig) and she said “it’s all good :)”