Union Street Becomes a “Secret Garden”

Matt Jones at the Secret Garden from hoovesontheturf on Vimeo.

I was getting ready to put out the recycling one Wednesday evening a few weeks back when I heard what I thought sounded like someone playing a Bonnie Prince Billy album out in front of my house. Climate change notwithstanding, February is early for the start of blasting-music-on-Union-Street season and the Bonnie Prince isn’t what typically gets pumped out of the local sub-woofers. Intrigued, I stepped outside with my glass-and-plastics bag and found an impromptu live concert taking place on a discarded sofa in front of my neighbor’s house two doors up.

It was immediately clear that the bearded singer-guitarist and two women on cello and violin were something special. We get a lot of R train foot traffic on Union between Fourth and Fifth, and by the end of the 15-minute, three-song performance, a small, enrapt crowd had gathered in front of the sofa. Coincidentally, the crowd included Sharon Alpert from the Surdna Foundation who, just the day before, approved a big grant to The Open Planning Project to help us launch Streetsblog Capitol Hill (we’re hiring, by the way).

The musician’s name was Matt Jones and as the music blog Hooves on the Turf explains, the sofa performance was a part of their "Secret Garden" concert series:

After Matt Jones
played his set at Union Hall, we led him and a few of his friends to an
abandoned couch that was a block away from the venue. The lighting was
poor, but that comfy bulk of green sitting amongst the continual
swooshes of passing cars seemed like it was just waiting for us. Matt
was joined by cellist Colette Alexander, who miraculously lifted a
folding chair out of the venue without anyone noticing, and Carol Gray,
who played the fiddle. They played three songs, “Lady Dawn”,
“Threadlines” and “Hand Out the Drugs”, out of which the first two are
from his latest, Black Path,
and the last one features a little clap-along. Soon after they started
playing, the person whose house we had settled in front of came out and
stayed for the street show, as did a camera-happy couple who lived

That’s my neighbor Leo annoying the videographer with his flash photography. With apologies to our spouses, I think Sharon and I are identified as the "happy couple who lived nearby."

  • Cool.

  • Mike Lydon

    That’s urbanism.

  • da

    Nothing like this ever happens in Garfield Place, alas.

    If it did, my neighbors would probably call the police.

  • JohnBike

    Most excellent! Made my evening to watch it.

    Thank you,

  • I live in DC and there’s a big jazz band here that often sets up shop at Dupont Circle on warm evenings. They are absolutely fantastic and I’ve been know to just stand and watch them for an hour or more. They invariably get a huge crowd watching and even dancing around them. This kind of stuff is what makes cities such wonderful places to live. It seriously needs to be encouraged.

  • BTW, that music from the video above is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing!


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