Busking at the Kraków Dawn (Ok, Night), Day 1

As is my wont, upon arriving in Kraków (8.18.10) I headed straight for the library, wandering through the old town on the way. When I emerged I gleaned from other buskers the general state of busking in Poland, and thereby of laws in Poland: that it’s essentially anarchist. The laws that exist that are routinely broken and unpunished while people are often punished for abiding by other laws. One of these buskers I spoke with sat on a low windowsill on Szewska and after helping me asked if I’d like to play with him.

Andrew plays guitar magnificently, at a virtuosic and fluid level I haven’t yet seen. He doesn’t sing so well but he makes up for it in spades with his improvisational skills. Somehow he integrates classical guitar flourishes into blues riffs, with flamenco picking, sometimes right after some shredding. I could tell him a key and instantly he had it. The best part of his talent was it’s infectiousness. For the time we played I soloed as well as I ever have. I lost that fear I generally have for improvisation because I knew he could fill in whatever holes I left.

All this to say that in my humble opinion we sounded awesome. He knew many of the same songs and of course with the two of us being capable musicians either of us could start a song the other didn’t know and after a few seconds it wouldn’t be a problem. I harmonized or played call and response off his songs, gave him space in my songs to solo… We played to our strengths but felt comfortable enough to test (and happily succeed) our weaknesses – his voice and my playing. If he fell flat I’d cover him. If I came up blank soloing…

A bit redundant because it was really that awesome. Like love at first sight but with music. Now to say the tips sucked would be quite the understatement. We didn’t really care though. Every now and then we’d just play some instrumental improvisation to take a break. Once a drunkard borrowed Andrew’s guitar but when Andrew and I started to play along (Andrew on his harmonica) he declared it shit and Andrew quickly recovered his guitar. Shortly thereafter this same man got a guitar from some other drunkards and started playing not ten meters away but we drowned him out without any effort and he moved along.

Szewska is a bit of a wider pedestrian street that leads to the surrounding traffic circle but sports many low window sills to compensate. What I mean is that we gathered quite a large seated audience. The men seemed to favor Andrew’s skillset while the women gravitated towards my voice. Keenest of these was a group of two girls who all but swooned when I sang Falling Slowly. They ran off one song after and returned with another three friends and requested it again. Andrew’d just learnt it (though he knew the tune from watching the movie) but backed me up perfectly – and my voice perservered for another go around at the demanding range. The girls loved it -reacting afterwards in a manner reminiscent of screaming Beatles fans – bidding us “You’re amazing”s as farewells with tears in their eyes.

I was due to meet Kris, my host for the night, at 21h. Try as I might I couldn’t find the bus stop (it turns out it was on the other side of the train station entirely, which allowed for me to practice quite a lot of Polish enquiring for directions or help from passersby. I finally received some relevant advice from a young English speaking man, who gave me a rather inefficient suggestion: Bus 105 -> 114 -> 154. I was an hour late and spent the first fifteen minutes at his flat apologizing, but at least I made it. The earnings Andrew and I split happily covered my bus ticket.

Earnings: 5 PLN + €0,20, 1.5 hours
Song of the Day: Falling Slowly – Soundtrack of Once

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