MIKE PESCA, host:
Dan had an idea.
DAN PASHMAN: I did.
PESCA: Rachel was intrigued.
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
PESCA: Win was brought in.
WIN ROSENFELD: It's true.
PESCA: Since it all happened with Dan's idea, what happened?
PASHMAN: Well, I had this idea. We had this idea. It was sort of inspired by the Arcade Fire. They have this video on YouTube that's gotten a million billion hits. This really cool thing where they basically just set up their instruments in Union Square in New York City and started playing, and it's captured on like a cell phone camera, something very low-fi. They have no speakers set up.
It wasn't announced, but it looks really cool and it's very exciting to watch, and we wanted to do that. We were very close to booking the Arcade Fire months ago, right around the time we were launching, and we wanted to try to get them to come out to Bryant Park with us in the middle of the lunch rush, just walk out there, it's very crowded out there at lunch time, and just start playing. No announcement...
MARTIN: Nonchalantly. Yeah. Just kind of cruise out there.
PASHMAN: No speakers, no nothing.
PESCA: To descend from different angles or?
PASHMAN: The specific logistics of it, yeah. I mean they never even got that far frankly, and sadly we were not able to nail down the booking with the Arcade Fire because we were trying to get them basically the day after their two year long world tour ended.
MARTIN: Fine. World tour, OK.
PESCA: Yeah. And they were looking forward to 80 days of rest.
PASHMAN: Going to sleep, right. More like eight months of rest.
MARTIN: But you did not give up.
PASHMAN: We did not give up. We booked a guy named Langhorne Slim. I've been a fan of his for awhile, and I just, because I know his music and I kind of - I met him before, I interviewed him before, I know his personality - I just felt like this guy could pull this off, this idea of taking him out into Bryant Park in the middle of the lunch crowd with his band and just start playing, no fanfare whatsoever. Put it on video and see what happens.
PESCA: So the part of the plan which was recently dismissed as logistics, now we have to talk about logistics, and I guess this is when you have to talk to our video man, Win.
PASHMAN: That's right. Well, I talked to Win, and then there was a million permits and phone calls to be made. I won't go through that because it's...
MARTIN: Not good radio. It's not good radio.
PASHMAN: It's definitely the least interesting part of the story.
MARTIN: But how do you balance that wanting to make this come across as this totally organic spontaneous event, and actually you put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
PASHMAN: Well, that was an issue. We went back and forth on a lot of those things like do we want speakers? On one hand we want people to be able to hear the music, we want amplification, on the other hand we want this to look and feel and be organic, and you know, Win and I worked together on that a lot in terms of coming up with a way to do this that would balance that.
PESCA: So, Win, when Dan, whose background is radio theater of the mind, where you just lie and no one will know, and you're like, I'm videoing this people. I mean, what do you bring to it? What are you telling him he has to do that he hasn't thought of?
ROSENFELD: Well, I mean I think the core idea of making it feel like a spontaneous thing was what was really important and in a lot of ways the spontaneity is real even though the set - we certainly did get permits, but I mean the people who were having lunch in Bryant Park that day weren't expecting somebody to sit down and to start rocking out.
PESCA: And the Bryant Park people were totally cool and totally played along and didn't tip anybody off.
PASHMAN: They were very nice. They helped us out. They did not tip anyone off.
PESCA: That's awesome. Let's hear it. You know, we got to hear it. We've been talking about it. Let's hear what Langhorne Slim sounded like in his impromptu, almost impromptu performance in Bryant Park.
MARTIN: This is "Honey Pie" live in Bryant Park.
(Soundbite of song "Honey Pie")
Mr. LANGHORNE SLIM: (Singing) Ain't no girl gonna tell me she don't want to be my honey pie. Ain't no girl gonna tell me she don't want to be my honey pie. Well, if I can't get your good loving, mama, Sure you know I'm gonna die.
Now you come around my way, you tell me to go climb up a tree. Now come around your way, now climb up into the tree. If you don't want it, darling, you can't have it. Ain't no girl gonna be the death of me.
Ain't no girl gonna tell me she don't want to be my honey pie. And ain't no girl gonna tell me she don't want to be my honey pie. Now if I can't get your good loving, your love, This time I do believe I'm going to die.
MARTIN: So that was Langhorne Slim playing across the street from BPP studios in Bryant Park spontaneously kind of. We had semi-orchestrated this. You guys, how did people respond? Did they kind of clue in? Did you see on their faces, oh yeah, they know that this guy's maybe not just some random busker?
ROSENFELD: I think it was a great mix of reactions. I mean some people it was just as varied as like New Yorkers. Some people were just eating their sandwiches acting completely oblivious to it, and then, you know, there were definitely people who got up and were asking for his information and they wanted to, you know, buy his album.
MARTIN: Were there any hardcore Langhorne Slim fans there just randomly?
PASHMAN: No. No, but there was like an older Italian woman who was like, who is this? I must bring this CD to my grandchildren.
PESCA: Why was she speaking with a Russian accent?
MARTIN: She's Russian-Italian.
PASHMAN: Sorry. I don't know. But if you watch the video actually on the left hand side there's this guy, this businessman, who is slowly but surely turning his chair more and more in Langhorne Slim's direction as the song progresses.
PESCA: It's called the Slim-tropism.
PASHMAN: That's right.
MARTIN: And he was great. He was totally into this, right, Langhorne?
PASHMAN: He was. He was a great sport, as were the other members of the band. I mean I thought he'd be a good guy for this because Langhorne Slim, as a musician as a performer, is really very earnest. And you need that kind of a quality to be able to go out there with no fanfare, no announcement, and really win people over, and I think he did that, and I think it worked out really well. It was a lot of fun.
MARTIN: Let's go out listening to more of Langhorne Slim live from Bryant Park. Here is performing "Diamonds and Gold" from the new album "Langhorne Slim."
(Soundbite of song "Diamonds and Gold")
Mr. SLIM: (Singing) You can have all the diamonds. You can have all the gold. Someday you're still going to get old. You've got to learn to get happy along the way.
Take some chances. Allow yourself to get lost. You're beautiful baby, you're the boss.
MARTIN: That's Langhorne Slim playing live in Bryant Park. Go check out the video. It's on our site, npr.org/bryantpark.
PESCA: Coming up, a talk with the author of a self-published book called "The Shack." It's now on the USA Today bestseller list. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.
(Soundbite of song "Diamonds and Gold")
Mr. SLIM: (Singing) You must play with fire in order to get burned.