It’s 1.36pm on Sunday. I’ve only just gotten up and dressed, and while I have been to the grocery store for some supplies already, that – and writing this – is all I’ve done. By contrast, there’s a pretty well known New York band called The National who, as of this very minute, have been playing for one hour and 36 minutes. That’s not that unusual in itself, apart from being a bit early for a gig, but here’s where it gets weird – they’re playing the same song over and over and over and over again. For six hours. Yes – six hours.
They’re doing it as part of an art installation at PS1 on Long Island City, an annex of the Museum of Modern Art. I’m heading down when there’s about an hour or so left – perhaps just 30 minutes – to see (and report on, for a magazine) the effects playing the same notes for 360 minutes. Which, if my calculations are correct, means they’ll play the song about 105 times today. Just writing that down – much as I love the band, and the song (it’s called ‘Sorrow’ – check it out!) – makes me feel exhausted, so I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like for the band themselves. Still, it’ll be a heroic effort and, even if they don’t ever play that song again after today, one I imagine will be incredibly worthwhile.
But it’s moments like that when I feel incredibly lucky to be able to call what I do a job. I’ve been in New York for almost 10 months now and, well, I’m still surviving. Sure, I get anxious about money sometimes – I’ll never be a millionaire from writing about music – but I’m surviving by doing something I absolutely love. It’s about passion, and combining two of my greatest passions – music and writing – into one thing.
I never even considered doing this as a job. I just fell into it accidentally at university and, when I moved to London five years later, figured I didn’t know what else to do for a career and, in my own naïve way, thought I’d give it a go. Now, almost a year after I moved to New York, I’m still amazed that I get to do this – that I get to see one of my favourite bands in a few hours do something utterly ridiculous and that I get to write about it, and I can call that my job. For now, anyway.
By this point, the band are halfway through their six hours (I had a little break from writing to drink tea and make a late breakfast). Their fingers are probably already starting to shred. And they must be covered in sweat. More than anything, I hope none of them need to go to the bathroom. That must be the worst. I’m meant to be interviewing them after – either right after the performance or tomorrow. Maybe I’ll ask that question. What hard-hitting stuff. Am I right?