The sun was shining, hot and sizzling like the spices of Mexico, as we arose from a night of peaceful slumber (and some intimate spooning) on our assortment of air beds, futons and pillow forts. A light breakfast of bananas and chai tea accompanied the obligatory brawl for the right to use our one shower but after much squabble and Bob’s increasingly panicked entreaties that we hurry up and leave, we set out, catching the subway to East Broadway then crossed the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. This was under the leadership of Tommy who, being a certified, hard-as-nails New Yorker, decided it would be fun to cross on the non-pedestrian side of the bridge, earning us the derision of many of Brooklyn’s cyclists. After some verbal jousting we made it to the other side and, somewhat perturbed by the combination of sweltering heat and frustration with the unfortunate Mr Hamer, we resolved to calm ourselves with a bit of a sing-song by the Brooklyn bridge. Here we recorded a video of our latest arrangement, ‘Rich Man’, with a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline behind us. This done and our spirits raised we caught the subway to Washington Square Garden where we tried our hands at busking to the myriad New Yorkers out enjoying the sun.
Morale wasn’t too high…
She looks like a total cyclepath
We began with a rendition of ‘Uptown Funk’ mashed with Flo Rida’s ‘Low’ and within a few bars we had gathered a crowd of over a hundred and after a set of only four songs we were met with rapturous applause and a gratifyingly full collection hat. Our confidence fully restored we decided that a well-earned break was in order so we made our way to the Rockefeller Plaza where we split off to engage in some classic tourism, some of us heading to Grand Central Station, marvelling at the beautiful architecture and heavily armed law enforcement, then Macy’s to admire the gorgeous, yet sadly expensive, array of designer products on offer, whilst others bought souvenirs and trinkets for family and friends.
Waiting to be scouted
Our inner tourists satisfied, we agreed that it was time to wow New York with some more scintillating a cappella goodness so we strolled over to Bryant Park where the good citizens of that fine metropolis were gathered to soak up the rays and, of course, eagerly await our arrival. We launched straight into our set, but after our first song we attracted the attention of not only a large and eager audience but also that of a member of the New York Police Department. As he sidled up, the sidearm protruding terrifyingly from it’s holster, we were sure that we were about to feel the full force of New York’s justice system. Images of American prison food, showers and shankings flashed through our minds as he quizzed us on our reasons for being in his city. Our earnest replies seemed to please him. He smiled wryly, chuckled and gratefully received our gift of a copy of Semi-Toned’s EP (priced at £5 or $8 and available from a Semi-Toned member near you) before wandering away, allowing us to finish our set to the excited reception of the surrounding crowds.
spoiler – This isn’t even a selfie
Our sight-seeing then took a sober turn as we went down to Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Centre memorial. The fountains lined with all the names of the victims of 9/11 left all of us at a loss for words as the gravity of our surroundings affected each of us deeply. However, as well as appreciating the sombre feeling of the monuments around us we were also engaged by some gentlemen standing by the entrance, armed with placards and pamphlets, claiming various inconsistencies in the narrative of that fateful day on September 11th 2001. Having experienced similar conspiracy theories in the past, we were somewhat cynical at first sight of these rather vocal individuals, however, after chatting with these men for 15 minutes our eyes were partially opened as the many unanswered questions surrounding 9/11 were presented to us. We learnt today that cynicism should always work both ways and we encourage our fans to question what they are presented with by the mass-media, and if Messieurs Bush and Cheney are reading, you have a lot to answer for.
Footsore and sweaty from a long, hard day, we returned to Queens for a siesta and a delicious supper of, once again, vegetable Bolognese and pasta then hastily dressed into our smart gear to head out to Time Square. Here every one of us was completely gobsmacked by this bastion of American capitalism, the bright lights glinting on our faces, our mouths agape. After some time rubbernecking at all the shiny people and beautiful lighting we decided that one more busk couldn’t hurt and we launched into some hearty renditions of ‘Lowtown Funk’, ‘I’ll Make A Man Out Of You’ from Disney’s Mulan, and of course ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ to the delight and excitement of Time Square’s many other patrons. This done, and our proverbial banner planted firmly in the heart of New York, we caught the subway shuttle service to Columbia University where we were to meet Pizmon, Columbia’s first and finest Jewish a cappella group, for some casual socialising and sharing of our musical styles. The members of Pizmon were tremendously hospitable as well as an extremely talented group, wowing us with Hebrew renditions of Myley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ and some beautiful Jewish traditional songs that left not a dry eye in the room. Due to the lateness of our arrival, we soon found the hour to be approaching dawn and we reluctantly extracted ourselves from our lovely hosts (some of us finding this more difficult than others) and stumbled back to Queens and bed to rest before another long day in the Big Apple.