The night was warm and balmy—a welcome change of pace given the ‘polar vortex’ New York had barely survived this past winter. I was strolling up Avenue A in Manhattan’s East Village, watching as revelers were already starting to pile into bars, languidly sipping their red wines while serenely basking in the start of a new weekend.
The sounds of a guitar floating over the night air caught my attention—the music was slow, soulful and seductive in the way only blues and electric guitar can be. I was running late to meet my friends at a neighborhood tapas joint a few blocks ahead but I felt my body override my mind as my feet sharply turned in the direction of the voice now pulling me in.
I cut across Thompson Square Park and found a small group of people huddled around a band—it was a makeshift concert with nothing more than a string of lights, some microphones and a few band members letting their tunes light up Manhattan. With the same giddiness I have when I discover a fantastic restaurant, I let the music wash over me. The band, The Wholes, was part of the Play-Diem concert series, which I had not heard of before. Having only known of headliner music festivals in New York like Governor’s Ball or Electric Zoo, I learned that Play-Diem is a showcase dedicated to celebrating creative souls in ‘the concrete jungle’ and the unrecognized talent New York City attracts.
Held only in outdoor spaces, Play-Diem pulls up-and-coming artists into the spotlight and shares their talent with the rest of the city. As the saying goes, New York is a city of dreamers that has people flocking to its bricks and mortar each year to chase their passions. Whether an undiscovered painter, ambitious actress, budding travel writer (like yours truly) or soulful musician, New York welcomes artists and dreamers alike and unites them under this city-wide notion of “make it here and you’ll make it anywhere.”
The band was wrapping up their last set letting the sounds of the guitar hang in the night air, the last few chords wrapping around the listeners like a silk scarf—smooth and sensuous. A vibration from my phone pulled me out of my reverie and reminded me I had places to be and people to see. I walked away from the park, letting the dark engulf me as I walked the distance between the band and the lit street ahead. With its crowded subways, pushy pedestrians and over-priced lifestyle, I have often said I have a love-hate relationship with New York City but on this particular evening—having stumbled upon dreamers united simply by melodies—I was reminded of how inspiring a sprawling metropolis can be.