While venues and concert halls remain shuttered across New York, the state took an important—if symbolic—step forward on Sunday with the launch of the NY PopsUp concert series. The program of surprise live performances began on Sunday with a mobile jazz concert lead by pianist Jon Batiste.

The show originally began at the Javits Center in Manhattan’s West Side with a multidisciplinary showcase of entertainers including tap dancing from Ayodele Casel and a cappella singing courtesy of Anthony Roth Costanzo. Seated in the audience was a crowd of 50 healthcare workers who were on break from administering COVID-19 vaccines at the convention center turned field hospital.

About half an hour in, however, the performers began to walk off the stage and through the aisles. Led by Batiste, who also heads the house band on Stephen Colbert‘s The Late Show, the crowd rose from their chairs and followed him like a pied piper. Through the building’s atrium, the procession began a musical march down city streets in a display that would look more at home in sunny New Orleans rather than the snow-battered streets of New York.

Related: New York City Mayor’s Office Announces “Open Culture” Ticketed Street Performances Program [Watch]

The concert is merely the first in a series of over 300 planned NY PopsUp concerts that will run through Labor Day. In an effort to breathe some artistic life into the cultural hub that has been quieted for nearly a year, the concerts will quite literally “pop up” in public places across the entire state including parks, subway, platforms, and even fire escapes.

In an effort to maintain public safety, however, most of the concerts will not be announced in advance. Like many of the passing pedestrians or confused city residents leaning out their windows, eager fans will have to keep their ears open for the sound of live music once again flooding the streets.

“We need more spontaneity; that’s what the beauty of this is,” Batiste said in an interview. “You don’t know what’s around the corner.”

Scroll down to see a gallery of photos from the inaugural NY PopsUp concert featuring Jon Batiste.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jon Batiste (@jonbatiste)

[H/T The New York Times]