Just another day on the road pedal-biking my way around Manhattan (New York, New York as the song goes) “DoorDashing” food to hungry New Yorkers. Anything can happen on this hit and miss work. Once I delivered a pizza to a billionaire who lived in a penthouse. On the same day, I brought a meal to a gangbanger in the projects. It’s part of what I like about the job. You just never know. Still, what happened recently is not something I ever envisioned.
I’m one of those rare country boys at heart who lives in the city. The first record I ever bought was sung by Johnny Cash. It’s really pretty simple. I like the down-home melodies and profound messages sung with a sublime simplicity. For me (and in the urban vernacular), country music keeps it real.
So I’m humping away with a bunch of long rides (I work on a pedal bike - no e-bike for me). North, south, east, west! I’m getting a serious workout. The phone pings with a delivery down to the World Trade Center area where I run into road closures and uncharacteristic people traffic. I’m not happy. Wading through throngs to pick up and deliver food isn’t my favorite part of the job. Remember! I’m a country boy at heart. I don’t like crowds.
As I ride down the river road (Hudson River), I see a long row of porto-potties. This doesn’t look good. But then I hear a band. “No,” I say to myself. “This can’t be a live band. They sound way too good to be performing in person.”
I was once a musician who toured the US with some name-brand artists. I know good musicians when I hear them. And whatever I was hearing? It was good music played by really top-rate players — if it was live.
I make the delivery and head north the same way I came — and listen again. The singer is talking to the crowd about the Ryman Auditorium. And it’s clear he’s not a recorded sound. This dude is live! Then the band breaks into some beautiful two-part harmony during the next song! “Who is this?” I wonder. “I have to ask around.”
As luck would have it, my phone pings two more times from restaurants in the area to apartments close by. And I keep hearing this amazing band. But nobody I ask knows who they are.
Then it happens! The phone chimes for me to go to Blue Smoke and I shudder in response. This order is taking me right into the melee. Where can I shackle the bike? And I know it’s gonna take 30 minutes to get the food!
I find a spot to secure my transportation and walk into the crowd. Closer and closer I edge toward the restaurant and the band. And just as I arrive at Blue smoke, I realize I’ve been hearing the sounds of Dierks Bentley and company.
The event he’s playing is the T2T, a remembrance of the cop who ran through the Battery Tunnel to the towers trying to help on 9–11 only to die in the disaster. It's not on any of his website tour pages. When I googled the event after arriving home, I could barely find anything about Dierks appearing in New York. It had to have been a spur-of-the-moment booking. There was no other explanation.
Dierks sings a song about living life to the fullest rather than just being alive. I smile as a warm feeling washes over me. That’s country music right there. Telling it like it is.
Twenty-three years ago, I attended a lunchtime concert performed between the old Twin Towers by LeeAnn Womack for the Downtown New York crowd. Almost nobody knew who she was. And I’m sure she felt as if she were in a dream — what with performing at noon in New York City between two giant buildings.
But when she sang “I Hope You Dance,” even the city slickers stopped and took notice. Maybe country music wasn’t the hillbilly stuff they thought was beneath them. This girl is singing my life!
But I digress. The next dash took me out of the maelstrom to a different neighborhood. Half of me wanted to go back into the throng. But I was working and was well aware that the band had been on for at least 30 minutes (the time I spent down there) and would be wrapping it up soon. So I moved on and too soon, was heading into Midtown with a bunch of exotic tea orders New Yorkers seem to love.
But what an experience. Here I was on a mundane job, riding into a hot mess that was sure to ruin my day — when the entire deal got turned on its head once I ran smack dab into a real country concert in the heart of New York City. I’m still basking in the moment. At least, just for a spell, I can relish being a country boy at heart in the big city! For once, it kind of worked out.
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