The NY PopsUp series of shows, a pilot program to "accelerate the revival of the arts," began in the state in February, and continued on Saturday (4/17) with a free show from Chris Thile and friends at East River Park Amphitheater. Arriving at the venue, people were social distancing in line to enter, which they could only do after answering a health questionnaire, providing contact information, getting their temperature checked, and agreeing to wear a mask for the show's duration.

Beginning the show a little after 2 pm, Chris Thile invited the audience in for a figurative group hug and passionately welcomed everyone "back to live music." Thile, alongside (and safely distant from) his friends, Lake Street Dive's Bridget Kearney, Rachael Price and Akie Bermiss, guitarist Louis Cato, poet Carl Hancock Rux and pianist Timo Andres, performed a varied musical show that affirmed their many talents.

The ever engaged Thile was often on the side, letting others shine; he also performed a track from his upcoming album Laysongs. Andres performed a strong rendition of Meredith Monk's "Ellis Island" as well as some other original compositions. Rux recited his poem "The Baptism", a tribute to John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, that was commissioned by Lincoln Center. And Cato, a member of Stay Human with Jon Batiste, was a man of few words but big smiles as he performed.

When the members of Lake Street Dive performed a cover of "Thank You for Being a Friend," Thile was toe-tapping as Rux was bobbing his head and the audience was clapping along. Thile was pleased to note the "crowd nailed back beat" before he and Cato joined LSD to play "Feels Like the Last Time," from their new record Obviously.

For the finale, Thile welcomed everyone up to perform a tribute to one of his favorite NYC places, Milk & Honey (now Attaboy) run by Sasha Petraske, and offered a touching statement as he introduced it. "Places like that, that makes NYC what it is," he said. "I feel like that if there is a silver lining to all of this, it's that I know that I will never take for granted getting to sit with one of you all in a place like that in NYC ever again. I can't wait to see you there."

For their last piece, Rux continued reading from his poem "The Baptism" alongside simple piano accompaniment before Thile and friends weaved in Gillian Welch's somber "Winter’s Come and Gone" to close out the set.

Check out pictures and video from the show below.

Thile will do another outdoor NYC show on September 30, when he helps celebrate Town Hall's 100th anniversary in Bryant Park.

Lake Street Dive, meanwhile, have a pair of socially distanced shows coming up at New Haven, CT's Westville Music Bowl on June 10 and 11.

Speaking of East River Park, there's an ongoing campaign to save it from being demolished and rebuilt as part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan, which you can learn more about HERE.

photos and review by Sachyn Mital

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