In an inventive answer to MTV Unplugged, whose Starburst-backed second online season is underway, three seniors from New York’s Hofstra University—Thomas McAulay, Sam Spar, and Matt Pelosi—created Subway Sessions, an online web series that documents acoustic performances by professional musicians in subway stations across New York City.
“In today’s culture of overproduction, auto-tuning, and a nearly impenetrable studio system, music can easily lose its soul before it reaches the listener. The goal of Subway Sessions is to showcase artists performing outside of these conventions—relying solely on talent and musicality,” reads the Subway Sessions website.
The concept is simple: “no studios, no editing—just music.” And for those who have ever joined the 5 million people who use the New York City Subway every day, you’ll know that the stations provide extraordinary acoustics. Nevertheless, New York City transit riders are a tough crowd, and performing raw can leave a musician feeling exposed. “I hope I don’t get booed,” said Cary Brothers in an interview with the Wall Street Journal after he performed with his band in the Bryant Park station for the most recent episode of Subway Sessions.
So far eight acts have performed: Cary Brothers, Matt Costa, Damian Kulash of OK Go, Patrick Park, Pearl and the Beard, Katie Costello, Tree Star, and Phil Cohen. Many of the performers—now successful professionals—started out playing in the subways for tips, and welcomed the chance to return to their roots.