courtesy of the artist
Gobble Gobble performs live.
courtesy of the artist
Some of the best musical moments come from the most unexpected places. At the recent CMJ Music Festival, I spent most of my time trying to fall in love with new bands, often crisscrossing the Lower East Side and heading back and forth into Brooklyn, exploring tiny clubs and various dives for hidden treasures.
The last show I saw was in the depths of Hipsterville, USA, better known as Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It was in the basement of some building, flooded with blue-and-green lights and white strings hanging above the stage in an odd shape. The band playing was called Gobble Gobble. The frontman had curly hair and an asymmetrical cut. He was barefoot and wearing shorts, despite the chilly temperatures. The rest of his band included two shirtless men wearing tutus and carrying shovels. They spent part of their time crawling around on the floor through the crowd.
It was memorable, but I left feeling defeated. I hadn't fallen in love with a single band that night, and I felt like I'd spent more time on the subway than in venues. Exhausted and ready to call it a night, my friend and I headed underground once more. We were waiting for the L train at the Bedford Avenue stop, when suddenly my friend (who'd just moved to Brooklyn about two months earlier) gasped and began tugging at my shirt. "Oh my God! Come here, come here!" Frightened, I quickly followed. As we moved toward a circle of excited onlookers, her eyes widened and she said, "It's the Subway Banjo Guy!"
I only had to listen for a few seconds to fall in love. His raw voice, along with fast finger picking, a thudding makeshift bass drum coming from a suitcase, the tapping of a tambourine and a really enthusiastic dobro player, was just remarkable. There was something electric about being in that grimy tunnel, literally full of garbage (even by subway standards), enjoying rustic music in the middle of the biggest city in the country.
I later found out that "Subway Banjo Guy" is named Morgan O'Kane, and that his dobro player is Ezekiel Healy. They and the group they play with is known both in and out of New York.
It's always wonderful to run into music unexpectedly. What are some of the most unusual places that you've accidentally found great shows?