A Handsome Bergen for a Busker, Day 4

It will be hard to top today’s pitch. The money wasn’t so good (perhaps because it was a Sunday? I don’t know), but today (7.11.10), unlike any other day, I had an audience. And what an audience. Lina, Ranveig and Frances decided to walk with me to the wonderful tunnel and upon arriving decided they’d stay a bit. It’s a comfy space, after all å) <-Norwegian winking face. They ended up staying the whole time (except Lina, who had to leave for work two songs before I wanted a rest).

Now I have no idea how having an audience helps or hurts tippage: on the one hand it demonstrates to passersby that it’s ok to sit and watch, and that other people are enjoying the music (and so, by extension, should they). Busking psychology is strange – some people rely on others’ opinions to gauge how good the performer is (in Sweden, for instance, if they saw a 20 SEK note, they’d be more likely to give one). On the other hand an audience makes passersby feel like they’re intruding, or that this is a nice group of friends who don’t need the money. So it depends. Honestly, I don’t particularly care about the monetary effect. What I know is that having an audience made me feel wonderful, made the space feel warmer and smaller, made the passersby feel less suspicious, made me sing better… When one kid decided to linger about, I sang him I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends.

Not long after I started, a skater guy stopped nearby and lingered at my peripheral for quite a few songs. Shortly after that (while I was singing Yellow), a very nice Chinese girl, Amy, plopped down beside Frances. Maybe they were standing at this point… I forget. I do remember that by the time I got to Stand By Me my audience was happily sitting, a fact that a passerby happily noted the irony of. I guess the skater guy took Amy’s joining as a sign that it was ok to join the group, so he joined the other side, though he kept his distance just a little with his skateboard. He stayed nearly the whole time and didn’t tip, but I didn’t mind. The best thing about the audience is that it totally negates the awkward between song phase – with clapping, or chatter. I gave them my repertoire list and that made it much, much easier to choose my next song – I didn’t have to.

Ranveig requested that I sing Hallelujah while she tried to film with her camera (from where all the Bergen photos come). The camera didn’t have sufficient memory space. Regardless, this was the most memorable performance I’ve had in these past two months. I hadn’t sung it in a few days, so it felt fresh: those of you who’ve heard me sing it know I throw a lot of emotion into it. I focused on the music and only looked up at the end of the first verse and into the chorus – and there was Frances, wiping at tears. By the second verse she was positively weeping. Amy (who hadn’t introduced herself yet) ruffled through her bag for tissues, which Frances used to cover her face. Ranveig and Lina looked at each other surprised. And from all this I sang at my absolute best. It was a magical moment I’ll probably never forget. The soft gray light of cloudy Bergen made slightly blue by the redness of the passage, the ethereal way the sound echoed around the tunnel, the moments of stillness between verses, the camraderie in the girls, who’d mostly just met, before me…

My wonderful audience æ) <-Norwegian happy face

They loved Hey Ya and at one point Ranveig’s best friend even came down the tunnel and requested Yellow. Unfortunately I didn’t know any Chinese songs (working on it!) but Amy still lit up and clapped enthusiastically after I sang Ue Wo Muite Arukou. In fact, I sort of had a compass on her thought-line as I knew her requests before she asked: Let it Be, Tears in Heaven, Country Roads. The atmosphere was so amiable I felt only amused when I forgot the lyrics to New Slang. I even gave Liberta a shot. Having an audience meant I could take short breaks to talk, to get feedback or requests, or surprise them (Mario Kart Love Song). When I finally finished I walked back to Amy’s hostel with her in the hope of internet. Happily I found a piano instead and I plunked amateurly away at that (to an audience again, embarrasing).

I returned to the tunnel after a few hours to a much slower pitch. Im supposing people were all cozied up wherever they were to watch the World Cup Final. I was quite annoyed, for instance, when a group of five obnoxious twenty somethings paraded through the tunnel in bright Holland orange and tooted their vuvuzelas right at me, even after I wished their team luck. Happily, the tulips lost. It was a very chill pitch – literally and figuratively. I had long dry spells so I walked about the tunnel while playing sometimes, to stay warm, practicing songs I hadn’t played in a while. I was pleasantly surprised when a group of goth rockers covered with bits of metal tipped me. One mother stared at me intensely, as if trying to understand me while her daughter dropped a single kroner coin from her dad’s shoulders. I also got a very nice “Good Luck” from a set of highschool ish girls towards the end.

Bye, Tunnel ø( <-Norwegian sad face. also a cyclops.

I’d arranged to meet up with Ranveig, Frances, Amy, and Ragnvald at the Bryggen Piano Bar to watch the World Cup and transfer couchsurf location from Ranveig to her brother. I went back to Ranveig’s first and got distracted: I decided to watch the entirety of Enchanted again while I ate dinner and only made the end. Well, I didnt miss much :). After a set of beautiful farewells exchanged as though among long acquainted friends (I remember thinking at that moment “I love traveling”), Ragnvald drove me back to his place and we watched Monsters, Inc. before bed.

Earnings: 217.1 NOK + $1.05, 2.3 hours
Song of the Day: Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

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