Subway musicians take their act to Madison Square Park

Bands working the subway, including Bandits on the Run (above), are featured in the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s new concert series, “Above Ground.” Photo by Dave Fitz)

Bands working the subway, including Bandits on the Run (above), are featured in the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s new concert series, “Above Ground.” (Photo by Dave Fitz)

By Sabina Mollot

At Madison Square Park, one of the surest signs that summer has officially arrived is not with the Shake Shack line snaking halfway around the park—since it’s like that even in the winter — but with the start of its various events.

For years now, summers in the park have included Thursday morning concerts and theater for kids as well as Wednesday night concerts for adults — and they’re all free. The evening “Oval Lawn” concert series has been going for 13 years and another concert series, “The Studio,” which runs at the park in the fall, and is the domain of Americana/bluegrass bands, is now in its tenth year.

This year, however, the Madison Square Park Conservancy has launched yet another series, this one featuring the best of what the city’s subway platforms have to offer.

Called the “Above Ground” series, the concerts have been running at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays since June 24 with buskers headlining. The series will continue for three more Wednesdays with performances by Bandits on the Run (July 15), Mariachi Flor de Toloache (July 22) and Underground Horns (July 29).

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Players event will celebrate subway performers

By Sabina Mollot

Natalia Paruz a.k.a. the Saw Lady at work (Photo courtesy of Natlia Paruz)

Natalia Paruz a.k.a. the Saw Lady at work (Photo courtesy of Natalia Paruz)

Meet New York City’s subway superstars.

From Natalia the saw playing lady at Union Square to Alice Tan Ridley, the rhythm and blues singer who recently landed a spot on “America’s Got Talent,” performers who make their living “busking” or working for tips on the streets and subway stations will be celebrated at an upcoming show at The Players.

Suzanne Stout, a board member of The Players, said she’s producing the event, along with two other organizers, because she enjoys watching buskers perform. In addition, she was particularly impressed with them as a lot after seeing them hustle their way through this year’s particularly brutal winter.

“Busking has been around since the beginning of time,” said Stout, “and most people don’t even know what it is.”

Though the job can be tough when straphangers are stingy or just uninterested, it also has its upsides for performers. “The audience continuously passes by you. You don’t have to please anybody but yourself,” said Stout. “There’s a real ethic to it.”

Additionally, what became clear to her, especially after meeting Tan Ridley, was that busking is as much of a lifestyle as it is a gig for those who do it.

Despite having been a contender on “America’s Got Talent,” and having a daughter who shot to fame as the star of the 2009 film “Precious,” Gabourey Sidibe, Stout noted that even now, Tan Ridley “doesn’t mind being called a busker.”

It was after all how she supported her family for two decades, before AGT led to other opportunities.

And on Tuesday, May 13 at 7 p.m., Tan Ridley will be the mistress of ceremonies at The Players’ first-ever Buskers Carnival. The event is free to the public, though naturally, hats will be passed around for tips.

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