While it's admittedly frustrating to have to sit through to some guy's rendition of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" while you're trying to listen to Justin Timberlake's new album on your way to work, there are actually plenty of talented drummers, guitarists, crooners and violinists worth pulling out your earbuds for. Here are our favorite buskers in New York—feel free to identify yours in the comments:
MOUNTAIN ANIMATION: Midwesterners-turned-Brooklyn-residents Zack Orion and Scott Murphy make up this awesomely energetic banjo-playing, drumming and fiddling duo. You can spot them all over the city, but they're at their best when they take over the Metropolitan G stop; they each do their thing on either side of the tracks, sending the music reverberating through the station. Seriously, I once passed up a Church Ave-bound G (yes, a G) so I could catch more of their set. And these two aren't just subway stars, either; Mountain Animation plays shows all over the city, including an upcoming concert at Rockwood Music Hall on April 2nd.
THE SAW LADY: Saw Lady, a.k.a. Natalia Paruz, has been on the forefront of the city's busking scene for ages, gracing subway stations with her musical saw's soft, ethereal and almost alien sound. She's also performed with orchestras all over the world, including the Israel Philharmonic and the Royal Air Moroccan Symphony Orchestra, in addition to local venues like Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. But we prefer to catch her at one of her regular Union or Times Square station haunts, lulling commuters with classical compositions and fun pop culture ditties like the theme from Star Trek.
JOYA BRAVO: All waits for the F train should be accompanied by the Star Wars theme song, and Queens resident/badass violinist Joya Bravo's got even more contemporary hits up her sleeve. She's officially a singer, and according to Twitter she's been playing subway stations for the past three months to help fund her studio space. We hope we can keep her! Check out her rendition of Michael Jackson's Thriller and the Verve's Bittersweet Symphony.
MECCA BODEGA: Mecca Bodega is actually a multi-musician percussion-driven band—they've performed all over the city, collaborated with musicians like Steven Stills and Mike Doughty and have leant their stuff to soundtracks like that of HBO show Subway Stories. But our favorite Mecca Bodega member is didgeridoo player and Australian native Simon 7; we've caught him laying down some sick tribal beats at Atlantic Terminal while transferring from the D/N/R to the 2/3/4/5 recently, and his stuff never fails to liven up a commute.
HETH AND JED: Brothers Heth and Jed Weinstein have been rocking the busking scene for years now, playing harmonic slow jams and heartfelt tracks on street corners and in subway stations while simultaneously releasing two albums, writing a memoir (appropriately titled Buskers: The On-the-Streets, In-the-Trains, Off-the-Grid Memoir of Two New York City Street Musicians) and getting write-ups in NY Mag and the New Yorker. But don't think all this fame has gotten to Heth and Jed's heads—these guys still grace city folk with their sweet, celestial tunes from time to time.
COLIN HUGGINS: Bucket drummers and acoustic guitar crooners ain't got nothing on Colin Huggins, who pushes his 650-pound baby grand piano from a storage space on Spring Street to Washington Square Park to do his busking. We first started following Huggins after a 2011 Kickstarter campaign upgraded his upright to a full-on baby grand. Huggins has a huge repertoire, playing everything from Chopin to Michael Jackson to Beyonce, plus some of his original tunes in between. You can generally find him tinkling the ivories on the weekends in the park from about 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., though depending on the weather he may spare his piano from the elements. (Nell Casey)
THE BOYD FAMILY: For over five years the Boyd Family have been filling the Bethesda Fountain terrace with their soaring voices, performing classic pieces like "Ave Maria" and "Amazing Grace," as well as contemporary pop ballads like Josh Groban's "You Lift Me Up." The family sometimes sings a cappella and other times accompanied by with a few string instruments, but either way their beautiful harmonies make even the most reluctant of listeners stop in their tracks. Unlike many outdoor performers, the Boyd Family performs year-round (weather permitting), so you can catch them most weekends between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to hear them for yourself. (Nell Casey)
DISHONORABLE-ISH MENTION: ALIEN SAXAPHONE MAN: Late night L train riders, beware—this man will board your train and announce to you and your fellow riders "I am an alien! I'm not a Mexican! And this is the language that we speak." If you're lucky, he'll then proceed to play you a pretty stellar experimental jazz or soothing sax number. But if you're unlucky, he'll let his sax squeal at you all the way under the East River. Alien Saxaphone Man, if you're reading this, we know you've got talent, but for god's sake, spare our ears the rough stuff at 2 a.m.
[Editor's Note: THE MERCURY MEN WERE ROBBED!]