Copping Out in Copenhagen (København), Day 4

Maria returned from traveling about Europe to the Frederiksberg flat last night. She gave me some great suggestions for likely pitches, one near her workplace, so at around lunchtime I walked the five kilometers to Amalienborg (7.28.10). Massive fail. I chose a spot facing the water with my back to an acoustic friendly edifice. The sun decided to disappear behind some clouds right as I began and passersby expressions similarly lost all happiness, replaced with suspicion and accusation. I gave up after fifteen minutes and popped into the Cast collection to see Maria.

We walked over to the largest fountain in Copenhagen, right at the foot of Kastellet, where the tourist busses drop off their obnoxious, tight-fisted loads. I disdained playing directly in front of the fountain. I have a certain amount of pride in what I do, and a set of lines I will not cross. I will not beg, or hustle, or impose. I know how annoying it is to get your lack of generosity shoved in your face when you really can’t give. I won’t cater to the audience besides taking requests and slightly altering my repertoire: that is I won’t wear something stupid or make fun of myself or do some gimmick.

I headed instead to the middle of the nearby bridge above the fountain. I had Maria request songs to keep it interesting. I’ll take this opportunity to declare Let it Be as the Song of the week/song of Copenhagen. I think I played it every day – usually from a request. A pair of art students (probably) joined us at the end of the bridge and laid out their drawings of the Little Mermaid before them to sell. They met with the same luck as I: after fifteen minutes or so I closed off with Maria’s request of Such Great Heights.

Kastellet, a good place to write letters.

Despite the fail (monetarily) yesterday I was determined to return to Blågårdsgade. I reminded myself that I do it for the art, that I should worry less about the money and simply enjoy the playing, and the reactions even if it comes with small tips. That’s why I like going to Blågårdsgade so much. It’s in the Nørrebro neighborhood of København, the working class district which was always home to protests, is extremely diverse… it’s easily my favorite part. Frederiksberg, on the other hand, rolls in cash. Buildings in Nørrebro are likely to be graffitied, the streets meet them with refuse, the grass is unweeded and of varying lengths, the people all different colors, people honk in a friendly manner, the store fronts, patrons and tenders spill out onto the street, half the passersby stop to talk to someone they know in a cafe or heading the other way. In Frederiksberg everything is polished, contained, comparmentalized: nice little hedgerows and clean sidewalks, obsessively swept ice cream parlours, near-perfect grass, all fair-skinned yet tan and blonde and hurrying – silent and never meeting your gaze, expression rigid.

I’d arranged to meet Amy, one of the girls in my audience at Bergen – still my favorite pitch to date – at Blågårdsgade at 17h. We arrived simultaneously. I scouted the street out as a van occupied my old spot and settled on a spot facing the bike locks in front of a closed store front. Having an audience makes this so much better – no just having company of any kind. Someone to share in the lack of tips, to give consoling glances, to be enthusiastic, to request songs, tip me… Tips were slow and small as I started, but playing for Amy made it fun.

After a little while Amy passed my repertoire list to some girls who’d sat down at a bench behind some bushes but facing me right after I’d begun. They gave a few requests and I obliged. The story ends sourly with them, however, as they called in many friends (by the end there were 8 of them in a circle, stealing glances at me and clearly listening) and didn’t tip, smile or even acknowledge me. They were, happily, the anomaly. Shortly after they passed the list back to Amy, a couple of grocery suppliers drove in and parked on either end of me, then got out and listened for a while, sitting beside Amy. One gave me the “You should try American Idol. You have a really good voice and I think you’d do well” comment. I humoured them with a “I’ve never thought about that… Hm..” They apologized about their small tips, but I assured them, honestly, that I didn’t mind – they loved the music, requested Stand By Me, we had a nice conversation about the neighborhood – they epitomized why I hate the touristy bits and I appreciate the local-frequented bits.

Shortly after they left, Amy noticed a young man sitting nearby and listening and passed him the list. Now, the thing with my repertoire list is I like to include the songs I’m working on so that I can use the list to practice off of. There are about ten songs out of the one hundred and twenty on the list which are unpolished and I put them in italics. Somehow these always get requested. The guy called his buddy over and they perused the list awhile before requesting Don’t Speak and Hurt – for the novelty factor. This day and many others before and after suggest that I should stick to what I like to sing – chillified covers of songs that shouldn’t be chillified. Later they requested Kids, and Crazy. One told the other, impressed, that I was a good jukebox. They bought snap peas from the grocers I’d played opposite in days past and used the change to tip me (apologizing also for their small tip).

See thats what I love about Nørrebro – the gratitude I get and the humanity that is apparent is strong here. People are people, they show appreciation. Right after the pair of guys left, a five kroner coin was tossed towards my case from an unknown source. After a bit of looking we saw that a man in a balcony on the third floor of the building behind me had thrown it down. He smiled happily, gave me a thumbs up, offered some Danish words which sounded encouraging.

I felt like winding down so I began a set of chiller songs with Hey There Delilah. A beautiful black girl with curly hair walked past right as I began. She spoke new england english, “I’ll be right back with some money, because you’re awesome.” I thanked her profusely and suggested she make a request. She assured me should would. I saw her duck into the cafe Charles liked. When she emerged she talked with a young Danish man (her boyfriend I assumed later) who’d been listening and watching, smiling with his cheek resting on his fist from that cafe, gesturing towards me. They walked over and after tossing me a tip she asked me if I’d be here a while, I told her I wouldn’t as my voice probably needed a rest, though it felt strong then.

So she stayed. They sat down by Amy and requested Hey Ya, squealing delightedly at my rendition. They also wanted Don’t Speak but I avoided it (the chorus is quite shaky and I didn’t want to subject myself and Amy to it once again). The girl loved Such Great Heights. After a few songs she ducked into the nearby convenience store while her boyfriend remained. I asked Amy for some last requests. Amy remembered Hallelujah as fondly and powerfully as I do, but was worried for my voice. I decided to have a shot and it went very well. This time in Frances’ absence, Amy got emotional.

The lovely girl returned from the convenience store at the fourth verse and presented me with a fifty kroner bill, setting it gently in my case and covering it with coins to protect it from the wind. As the fifth verse began she and her boyfriend smiled and waved at me, “I told you I’d give you something!” she said triumphantly. They walked off and passed back the other way in the middle of Amy’s last request, Let it Be, riding tandem on a moped and waving enthusiastically at me. And during the bittersweet chat Amy and I shared before parting, I felt like a musician..

Earnings: 155 DKK + €0.10, 2 hours
Song of the Day: Such Great Heights – Postal Service

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