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Busking in Sydney: Day 3


Today, as I walked down George Street, I started to feel nervous, my palms were sweaty again, my stomach was unsettled and nervous energy coursed through my body. And I was hungry. Perhaps chewing gum didn't help matters.

I scoped out my environment, the area and the foot traffic. Surrounding me were the following shops - Crystal Bar (swanky restaurant), Anthea Crawford (clothes), a war memorial, Emporio Armani, a finance house and oh, let's not forget opposite, we have the virgin megastore.

Today's competition comes in the form of street teams for charities and mobile phone companies - fresh-faced, relentlessly smiley and who will stop at nothing to get people to sign up for their particular brand of evil. I find them more even more offensive now that they are direct competition for the attention of the passers-by. Seeing them, I can imagine that people withdraw into their personal bubbles and tune out all external influences vying for their attention and wallets. Thanks guys.

I set up slowly again and positioned my case a little further out in front of me this time. No rush. The people may come and go, but the ritual of preparation is like putting on armour. I am donning my persona for the performance where I can play my ass off for a public that can be either coldly indifferent, appreciative, scornful, grateful, downright ignorant and absolutely delightful.

I started with a slow run through some major scales and arpeggios. It is not an optimal warmup but it is better than jumping in cold and there is work to be done. This time, I had less uncertainty about my set list. I drew up the list of guaranteed (tunes I know) tunes and proceeded to slowly work my way through them, extending and jazzing them up where I could figure out how to do it.

I kept a pen handy to write up the name of a tune of two as they came to me and as I remembered them. Today, I was inspired to remember and then attempt "The Snowman", half of "Baker St", "Summertime", "If I were a rich man", "The Pink Panther". I forgot to include "Skylark" today because I fluffed it up so badly yesterday. I really do need to learn some funky blues tunes with a little more bite than the easy to play but unremarkable "canteloup island" or "watermelon man". The more complex tunes really do permit a furthering of the playing rapport with one's audience.

Busking Observations:
1. Flamenco duo were not present today. Hooray. In their place was an old man singer, dressed in purple who kicked off with "My Way". I need to add that song to my repertoire. But I think I can take him.

2. FuManChu the old Chinese dude was also absent today, unless he came and went before I got up to that part of Martin Place.

3. Taking a break and talking to people is a good way of giving your lip a well-need break. My mouth didn't feel half as battered as yesterday.

4. Little children. A little girl approached me tentatively, then danced a little bit as I played "My Favourite Things". So when I finished playing that, I moved onto playing "Do a deer, a female deer" while racking my brains furiously for any childrens' songs that I could play. But she smiled and danced a little bit balancing on her tiptoes. It made me very happy indeed. Must learn "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star". A shy little boy came up and danced a little, then went back to his mum, came back and then sat on the floor. He went back to his mum, and returned a third time with a couple of coins he shyly placed into my case.

5. Towards the end of my set, a Japanese man dropped a $5 note into my case. I think he was the same guy who requested 'Dire Straits' yesterday. I might just have to learn a little, as a thank you.

6. One lady came up and asked if I did events like weddings. I asked when. It was at the end of April. I had to demur. I should have just said "yes" and figured out how to make it work. Duh.

7. Happy Additions to the repertoire:

Mercy Mercy Mercy
Careless Whisper
Baker Street
The Pink Panther (all of it)
My Way
I know him so well

And before anyone raises a eyebrow in scorn at the choice of tunes, there is a fine balance between playing what you want and giving a potentially paying audience what they expect from a performer. So it will be Bach, John Coltrane and Joe Zawinul for me, Frank Sinatra, Elaine Paige and Henry Mancini for them.


New Member

Another fine piece of writing, Tengu, and an inspiration to those of us who should go out and busk, but can't summon up the time, confidence etc...

I know exactly what you mean by 'putting on armour'. That's just the way I feel when performing, as if I'm playing a role - more like being an actor than myself.

Keep it up, and keep writing, too. :welldone
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