The Sounds of The (New York) City

Working close to 50 hours a week isn’t conducive to the most active blogging life. It was much easier to scribble notes in my journal on my morning commute than to sit down in the evening typing out a blog post for a public audience.

Although I moved back to North Carolina more than a week ago, I thought it would be remiss to leave out of these chronicles one of the biggest parts of my New York experience, which was the music.

Despite giving up the viola in 6th grade, music has always been a huge part of my life.

And before I had even packed my suitcases, there were two concerts on my calendar: The Early November acoustic tour playing at The Studio at Webster Hall in June and the free Nickel Creek show in Prospect Park as a part of Celebrate Brooklyn!

The Early November is a band of my youth. Which is saying something since I’m only 21. They are one of my “middle school bands,” and one that I have no shame in admitting my love for ( I can’t say that about all the music I listened to back then.) I had seen Ace Enders tour solo before, but hadn’t seen The Early November perform since they got back together.

The venue was smaller than expected. Possibly even smaller than Local 506 in Chapel Hill. It was fitting, because the night felt like a gathering of friends. As they went through the hits, old and new, there wasn’t a soul who didn’t know every word.

It also helps that the band is from Jersey so NYC is the closest to a hometown show they had on this tour.

I left the venue wondering why all concerts couldn’t feel this way- like a giant sing-a-long among friends.

The Nickel Creek show was less intimate-the Prospect Park bandshell can fit a few thousand, and I was worried I wouldn’t make it in time from my work to Brooklyn to even get a spot. Fortunately since it was a weeknight Tonya and I were able to stake out our own little patch on the lawn.

Having seen Punch Brother perform at Memorial Hall a few years ago I knew we were in for a good show based on Chris Thile alone, and the trio reunited didn’t disappoint.

On my NYC bucket list, I had mentioned I wanted to see a show at the Rockwood Music Hall, and preferably I wanted that show to be John Gallagher Jr. since he plays there regularly when not in Los Angeles (or so I had deduced from his tweets). It didn’t turn out exactly like that.

I ended up seeing Carolina-favorite Mipso at the Rockwood, with a crowd full of many Tar Heels and my sister who had become a fan of the band through my introduction.

I did end up seeing John Gallagher Jr. perform later that month at the Schott Leather music showcase at the Bowery Electric.

Most probably know Gallagher for his acting career, but he’s a talented musician in his own right.  Not to mention it’s no surprise that as a Tony-winner he has incredible stage presence. The only problem of course is that he hasn’t really recorded any albums outside of cast recordings. So unless you live in NYC or LA, you’re stuck watching bootlegs on YouTube.

To my pleasant surprise, he mentioned at the show that he recently recorded an album it just hasn’t been released yet. At least I’ll have a wonderful live show to tide me over.

I don’t have any eloquent turn of phrase to describe the show. Like my other NYC concert experiences it was fun. People were dancing. This seems like such a given, but it always amazes me the concerts I go to where the audience isn’t getting into the show. No one is singing along or dancing. They just stand there. Even for great bands I’ve seen this happen, and it befuddles me. I’m a shy person in everyday life, but concerts are meant to be enjoyed. Music is meant to be lived and New Yorkers know how to do that.

Of course, this also happened to be the night it took me two hours to get home instead of a half hour because of subway construction. Walking home from the 2 train at 1:30 in the morning on a week night was an experience by itself. But seeing that harmonica in person was worth every moment of sleepiness the next day at work.

John Gallagher Jr. at The Bowery Electric, New York

A post shared by Wanting Han (@phoebe_han) on

And more than the music I planned to hear, there was the music that was a part of the city itself. The live jazz on the patio of Harlem Tavern during weekend brunch. The loud beats of Caribbean music being blasted from speakers on Frederick Douglas Avenue and Latin music on the boardwalk of Coney Island. The honking of taxi horns and the wind tunnel rush of the subway heard above ground through the grates.

Now I’m back in Carolina, and the sounds are a little different. The hum of the whirring ceiling fan in my bedroom, barely audible under the noise of the crickets outside. The cheers of thousands of students as our team leads us to a victory. The angelic harmonies of a cappella groups in the pit as they try to recruit new members. There will be more music this year I’m sure. But it will be hard to match the sounds of the summer.


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