Billy Bragg isn’t looking for “A New England” – the title of the British songwriter and activist’s 1983 breakout single — he’s just looking for New Yorkers who can strum a few guitar chords with him at Lincoln Center during one of the coolest interactive events of the summer: The Big Busk.
Since May, Bragg has been calling on the public to recommend their favorite busking songs – familiar sing-along numbers – through Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. The public voted for their six favorite songs — requests included “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan and “Alison” by Elvis Costello — which musicians of all ages and abilities are invited to perform with Bragg in a free concert at Lincoln Center’s public outdoor space — Damrosch Park — on Jul. 27. The winning songs won’t be revealed until the day of the concert.The Black Earth Boys open the show, which non-musicians are invited to attend.
The Big Busk is part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors, a series of free cultural events throughout the summer. “The mission of Lincoln Center “Out of Doors” is to bring Lincoln Center to the community and the community to Lincoln Center.The whole idea for the Big Busk is to put that into practice by turning our audience into the performers and breaking down those barriers between performer and viewer,” said Bill Bragin, director of public programming for Lincoln Center.
The Big Busk is a reflection of Bragg’s early career, when he supported himself by busking around London, as well as his adamant belief in public participation and public goods. An ardent left-wing protest singer in the populist tradition of Woody Guthrie, Bragg still manages to draw people of all political persuasions in with heartbreaking songs of love and loss and the fact that he is, by most accounts, a really friendly guy who remains in touch with his working class roots.
Billy Bragg invites you to the Big Busk — in a song, of course. Video courtesy of Lincoln Center.