Yesterday at around 2pm, I found myself standing shoulder to shoulder in a crowd of a thousand in Central Park's Summerstage; waiting for indie minstrels Stu Larsen
, Liam Bailey
, and Passenger
to reveal themselves through the clouds of cigarette smoke and restless chatter — And as the crowd began growing weary from the heat, I quickly noted that the 8-dollar beers were too out of reach if I had ever planned to get my spot back. So I stayed put, wiping the sweat off the tip of my nose with my shirt.
And then suddenly, from the corner of the stage, out came the reserved Stu Larsen, baring nothing but an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, and a pocketful of songs he was ready to perform for the already fatigued crowd.
It was at that point, just as he began playing, that I noticed how well his voice suits a venue like this one: where the ground is hidden under blankets and everyone is seated with their legs crossed, swaying their heads from side to side.
He surveyed the crowd, smiled, and played a quiet set of delicate tunes without missing a single strum.
And just as quickly and quietly as he arrived, Larsen faded from the spotlight and retreated to behind the stage, where he would inevitably greet the fans and anxious photographers waiting to meet him. When he left, the crowd stood up and prepared for the fervent Liam Bailey and his band, who eventually took the stage and embraced the crowd with wide eyes and sparkling smiles.
And at an alarming rate, the four-piece collective from Nottingham, England tore through their set, leaping from one end of the stage to the next; possessed by an energy I hadn't seen in quite some time from a band: A kind of free flowing intensity that grew with every passing second.
Then the audience wiped the dirt from their faces and began drenching themselves with the remaining water in their bottles, while Bailey put his hands together to bless everyone in attendance for being so responsive.
Just as soon as he exited, the stage was cleaned and prepped for Mike Rosenberg AKA Passenger, who would be taking the stage all by his lonesome.
And when he finally came out, with a sunburst colored guitar and a wink, he screamed, "Hello New York!" — and the crowd greeted him with a thousand I love you's and desperate outstretched arms.
He then began to finger-pluck like a restless cowboy-crooner from one tune to the next, while simultaneously giving the audience some insight on why he wrote the songs he planned on playing.
And the crowd sat silent and starry-eyed watching his every move — studying every gesture.
The show continued with a cheerful Rosenberg playing a set of eclectic covers from Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" to Haddaways "What is love." — And when it was time to leave, the crowd sighed and begged him to keep going — because Rosenberg is the type of musician that always makes you plead for just one more — so instead, just to up the ante, he played three more.
And when he finally wrapped up his encore, his smile spanned from ear to ear as the crowd roared with excitement — and he slowly walked off, with his guitar strapped to his back and a hop in his step from the joy the day had brought him.
So, if there's three things I learned from seeing these three semi-contrasting acts on a hot summer's day In Central Park, its that: Summerstage is the perfect venue for any musical act, talent will always be recognized and appreciated, and that Passenger fucking rules, man!