The ‘Bizzy’ City

Bizzy and his hockey stick guitar at the Metropolitan Ave./Grand St. station. Photo by Griffin Koelbel.

Bizzy and his hockey stick guitar at the Metropolitan Ave./Grand St. station. Photo by Griffin Koelbel.

He stands by the benches on the Church Avenue-bound G Train platform of the Metropolitan/Grand subway stop in Brooklyn. It is a Friday night, and the platform is crowded with all kinds of people, hipsters en route to parties, tired skaters, business people on their way home, and more. They all listen absentmindedly to him bang out the intro chords to a folky, swaying piece. He hasn’t done anything too extraordinary, so he is ignored.

THIS HOCKEY STICK KILLS FASCISTS: the message, freely scrawled on the heel of Vlad ‘Bizzy’ Miroshnikov’s (AKA Bizzy) homemade hockey stick instrument alludes to Woody Guthrie’s famous phrase, “This machine kills fascists,” and may hint at the purpose of the music he shares with tens of thousands of New Yorkers every day.

The instrument Bizzy strums is not a guitar, acoustic or electric. It’s not a banjo, violin, cello, or a bass. It’s a hockey stick. Four strings tied to the heel of it, secured with a tuning knob each, and a few inches of wide, black tape tied around it a few times.

For the body, the four strings are attached to a large metal coffee can, covered with stickers. This home made instrument, despite its appearance, does have a quality sound. Bizzy plays it with the sweeping strums of an acoustic guitar, but it’s sound is metallic and twangy like a banjo. It sounds exactly like what it is: a stick and a can, made, with love, into a working guitar.

Bizzy matches his instrument well. Full of rugged creativity and quirkiness, he stands in dirty brown boots, worn brown jeans, and a simple blue tee shirt. His goatee fits his face and aesthetic so well, it would be surprising if he had had it for less then five years. The sides of his head are shaved, and the hair in the middle is pulled back in a long ponytail. Sitting in front of him is a hat with a few bucks in it, and a scattered pile of makeshift business cards, that are just pieces of scrap printer paper reprinted with his information and a graphic.

He continues to strum his intro and still nobody is paying attention, but when he starts to sing, everyone looks up.

Finally one hears what his hockey stick guitar is meant to accompany: a voice so rough it sounds like he has an entire gravel driveway in is throat. He sings so deep that it is hard to hear the pitches of the melody, and he commands it well, singing fast and slow. It is soulful and emotional, and thoroughly personifies the lyrics of the tune he sings—one of a sailor lost at sea. Everything about Bizzy and his music transport the listeners on this crowded subway platform to the story of the sailor. His flowing, swaying chords are the waves, his voice a rugged, lonely man in the ocean. The commuters are more attentive now, their attention caught by his unusual rumble. He finishes his tune with a long, low note and earns a few claps by a handful of listeners.

Bizzy sings and plays with so much soul that it is obvious he has a big message and purpose. Although we don’t know exactly why he makes his music, his instrument’s written message gives us a clue: He may not be Woody Guthrie, he may not be able to kill Fascists with his hockey stick, but it is safe to say that he wishes to make a difference using his music, and, out of the thousands of people that walk past him each time he busks, there is no question that his music has touched many.

 After a small, silent nod of appreciation, he begins his next song.

– by Griffin Koelbel ’17