I spent the majority of the past five years living in New Haven. Not once did I try busking. Funny that the best pitch I’ve yet found in the States should be here, no? Around the late afternoon (11.6.10) on the first day of my stay without New Haven’s famously dreary rain I claimed the pitch by the British Art Center, under the very Le Corbusier inspired piloti-ed open space at the corner of High and Chapel Streets. This pitch is normally manned by an elder gentleman, seated in a lawn chair and playing a neck mounted harmonica along to folksy guitar strumming. Despite being warned earlier by Jackie that there were tons of buskers in the city these days, I didn’t see another busker during my five day stint.
Margaret accompanied me to the spot and alternately sang along or watched me or hte passersby awkwardly with my stack of lyrics in her hand. Like most times I’ve had a companion, this made the pitch incredibly fun, but also less lucrative. (I would discover this the following day).) A few meters down the street, a pair of Hopkins kids solicited donations (to which I snorted a bit) and just across the intersection a hawker sold some cheap jewelry. I believe it was in the low fifties outside, but the wind was light enough that I could sing and play decently despite it. Margaret chose our first many songs – all happy energetic ones – and perhaps due to that or the initial energy or the time of day we got a rush of tips in the first fifteen or twenty minutes. After that they dried up entirely. Perhaps another factor was the hastily dropping temperature.
Singing in New Haven was less awkward than I expected. I saw plenty of people I recognized, but only one of them, Charlie, recognized me, and it took him a second to figure out the long hair and get over the shock of seeing me singing on the street. I was singing Hey Ya, his favorite cover of mine. The passersby by seemed gathered about opposite ends of the age spectrum – high-schoolers and twenty somethings or fifty somethings. They were equally generous groups. I wonder, now, if the location (outside an art museum) was a large factor.
I suppose the most memorable part of the pitch occurred when a pair of young New Havenites lingered against traffic sign, smiling and watching me sing and clearly impressed. The young man invited me to sing at an acoustic show on 1175 Chapel that night at 9:30. I stayed with Jook Songs afterwards, however, which precluded my contributing there – but now I wish a little that I’d gone.
Earnings: $8.50, 50 minutes
Song of the Day: Hey Ya – OutKast