Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The busker chronicles

I apologize for my lack of effort on this blog.
Far too many other concerns have clouded my thoughts.
Yes, is one all pervasive aspect... housing uncertainties, and some good diversions like trying to get a new band off the ground.
I'm currently in the process of moving out the place where I've resided for the last 8 years. Of course no one has it very easy in this day and age. Economic adversity has hit every corner of the globe. And none of us are immune.
I've had to get by on my unemployment pay... and gone back to my old avocation -busking. I'm sure many musicians occasionally fantasize traveling to europe and busking in the different cities for the adventure of it.
And I've done my fare share of that ...but it's a very different adventure when you've kids to feed.
I can't complain too much.
Busking has helped my guitar playing skills quite a bit.
I've played in alot of bands... but it's more of a challenge to set yourself out there in the thoroughfare with just a guitar.
I've been wanting to keep it interesting. To find that balance between exploring and mastering those songs that have influenced me, finding rare songs (something unexpected for the public to stumble upon) and to entertain without ending up feeling like a complete musical whore just another hack with a tin cup and a tin ear.
I try to offer interesting renditions ...but sometimes you find yourself standing out there, singing yourself hoarse to the indifference of passers by.
Oddly enough I used to go busking the day before important band gigs for that express purpose... just to overcome any impending stage sickness. To have people pass by while I sing and play my that the following night I could jump on stage with nothing but attitude.

But here and now... the punters' lack of reaction has a different effect.
In those moments I'm thinking...'Oh come on, I wasn't that bad!'
Well, it depends on the day really.
And usually at that moment I decide 'fuck it!' and choose to just play my guitar...just let myself jam a bit.
I'll drift into something bluesy... maybe in the tradition of ala Johnny Winter, Peter Green, Jonathan Richman.... or maybe tryout a more gothic style of guitar playing.
And it's at that instance of completely losing myself into my guitar that people surprize me by responding and rushing in with cash. Right at the moment when I don't even care about the money anymore or even want to be distracted from my jam.

For that reason I probably suck at being an entertainer as such.
Seems like I always put other considerations before just trying to satisfy assumptions of what the crowd is there for. That either exploring musical ideas, or artistic or political statements seems always be my first inclination.... to varying effect.
My current band effort though has forced me to learn a more conciliatory approach in that regard. I have a large repetoire of songs I've written for the last 28 years. But for this band (where I'm twice the age of my fellow bandmates)I decided to avoid wallowing in my own idiosyncracies by leaving it all to consensus... the end result is a departure from my own niche of post punk era stylings.
And the people of this day and age care nothing of loyalties or prejudices of that bygone period. Anyone of the punk scene eschewed anything from the hippy period. These days people here see it all as a musical lineage... even if they give you blank stares when you mention bands like The Fall, Gang of Four, WIRE, The Damned, Suicide or other pioneers like MC5, Blue Cheer... and yet they know of Slim Harpo or John Lee Hooker or memorized all the songs of The Pixies or Creedance Clearwater Revival.
While it may seem frustrating when trying to create a sense of atmosphere by offering something rare in one manner; -it's liberating in realizing those other traditions can be drawn upon and interwoven to create something new.
Even back in the day I never remained within the confines of one scene.
I loved it all.
I had good, loyal friends in the hardcore punk scene. Yet quite surreptiously played in synth bands, and went to new wave clubs, ska gigs, goth gigs, artpunk shows and reggae parties. One thing I learned from The Clash...who fearlessly ventured out from the strict confines of the anglocentric punk scene... that there is so many more musics to enjoy, to engage in and to allow one's world to widen by.

And now I explore those different traditions, in my own way.
I take them out on the street with me.
Just a guy with a guitar.