Rock104 Blog

Arlethia, rocking the subways of New York with her soul

BY RACHEL DEAN

Whatever kind of music you like, New York City has a little something for you.

During my lunch break, I usually head to a little sandwich shop in midtown near Grand Central Station called Potbelly. This modest little shop, in my opinion, has the best live light rock music anyone can ask for. Everyday you can count on a different musician setting up his or her amp in the corner and singing throughout the lunch period as the line continues out the door.

Downtown, at Washington Square Park, independent hipster musicians play in the park for donations on any given day. The NYU area has the most diverse indie rock musicians who I’m sure play to support and maintain the lifestyle of a struggling college student.

Uptown to the Bronx around West 225th street, you’ll notice a huge range of different types of music as you travel through Spanish Harlem and then up into the Bronx. I typically enjoy the jazz which Harlem is specifically known for. However, the unique bongo players I encounter on occasion in the Bronx are also a welcome change from the usual classic rock artists of the upper Westside where I live.

Then, of course, there are the subway terminals that house any and all types of music that anyone could possibly imagine. Although I thoroughly enjoy the majority of the music I hear as I’m rushing to and from work, these subway terminals are not typically described as inspirational, motivational, and especially not holy. All these stereotypes changed for a split second one day when I was on my way to Midtown for dinner. As I was walking past Port Authority in the Times Square terminal, I rounded the corner and could’ve sworn Gladys Knight was belting it out on the other side. It wasn’t Gladys, of course, but rather the fabulous Arlethia, who could sing like no other! Even though she’s not a household name–yet–she definitely is a subway superstar. People were crowded around, recording her performance and acting like it was Gladys herself. She sang all types of gospel music and hit notes that I never even knew existed.

Religious or not, anyone would be in touch with the spirit after this encounter. If noticed by the right person in the city where dreams supposedly come true, she may be on the midnight train to stardom! This was definitely not typical Washington Square indie rock, Spanish Harlem jazzy blues, or Bronx-bound bongo music that I’m accustomed to, and that’s perfectly fine by me!

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