July 16, 2017 § 2 Comments
Buskers, those street musicians wearing tragic hats and faded jeans, are the filter feeders of the music world, gleaning pocket change and an equivalent amount of attention from a busy, going-somewhere audience.
The signals that let listeners know, “Hey, this is a big act! These guys are hot!” are absent.
No band bus.
It’s a hunger that will never be filled.
But the musician playing the guitar is begging for something more.
He is begging passersby to break stride. Listen.
This killer guitar riff? Hey, I picked it up offa Clapton. That aching high note? It’s the best I got and I’m singing it for you, Mr. Walk-On-By-Staring-at-Your iPhone.
Spare me a loose-change minute, okay? Hey—I’m good!
But those Walk-On-Bys rarely stop.
Indifference, heat, rain, hunger, those barely-more-than-nothing-tips are the busker’s daily fare.
So is the hope that a glimmer will fall like grace; the glimmer of cash, the glimmer of attention, but without either, there is still the music.
A steady companion, songs as familiar and broken-in as those faded jeans sustain a busker.
I have never been a full-time busker but my singing partner, Craig Reeder, and I have played and sung our hearts out on sidewalks, narrow strips of grass, in parking garages and city parks for loose change, a thumbs-up, a gaze that lasts a prolonged second.
Kids are more likely than adults to stop and blink and listen, exert drag on a parent intent on walking past. Kids don’t notice the absence of external proof that this musician is BIG.
They hear the music, feel the beat.
We are not in it for the bucks, the glory, the big contract, that’s for sure.
Buskers are in it for the music—and that brief slowdown that says, hey, I should be at work, but I’ll walk backwards for a few steps and listen because, you’re damned good! Heck, I might even dance a little.
To honor these overlooked troubadours, a ragtag fellowship of which we are sometimes members, Craig and I wrote a song titled Busker’s Lament. Click the title to hear it and see some nice photos.
We’ll play this song on sidewalks and park lawns.
Stop and listen, please.
Don’t walk by.
Stop for all of us who bring music to the street.
We sure would appreciate it.