Austin, Live (Indoor) Music Capital of the World, Day 4

Apparently everyone in the world ever wants to go to Hawaii right now. I’ve spend most of my hours of borrowed or library computer time writing couch requests to Honolulu-ers and so far no luck. Which is my excuse for being many days behind on blogging. Whatevers.

As ever, my last day in Austin, 2.22, was easily the best. Busking is sort of like that. It’s like climbing – on the last go, it goes and you need rest days, and you need to be positive… etc. Oh I miss climbing so. After a few days in a city testing out the likely spots one learns the flow and vibe of the place a little, and that’s what’s so magical about busking – it’s like a shortcut to tap into the pulse of the city, something that normally takes weeks and months to approach. It’s amazing what standing still can do. Next time one of you travels I recommend you find a busy spot and just stay in one place for two hours. When I thought of traveling before it was all about motion – that’s what that word conveys – but I now think there’s equal gain from stillness.

When Bram’s suggestion of a new spot looked essentially empty, I hopped on the bus to South Congress once again. I just had a good feeling about it (Wheel of Fortune, anyone?). I struck an agreement with the shop owners of Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds and set up a pleasant pitch just outside of it. What with money worries largely gone, whatever I earned this day would be gravy, I played comfortably and happily despite an initially slow tippage rate. Best of all, my pitch began with a beautiful – in one of those shining personalities as well as in looks – girl. I asked her as she passed if she was carrying a violin and she dropped it off in her nearby beatup multicolored car, returned with another case and played along to Purple Dress, requesting something sad and original. I think I was a quite a bit flat – after speaking with Bram a lot I realize that I can’t hear my own off pitchiness very well, and that the best way I can sense it is with monitoring of my technique. Sans warm up I don’t think I sang quite right. So lovely, though. That impish smile and little car hat and honest unpretentious bohemian-ness. Climberish, even.


Forgot to take a photo til I’d wandered a bit North.

It took over 20 minutes to receive my first tip, from a kindly Thai? lady with a dog. Buskers generally hold to the maxim that the first 15 minutes set the tone for the rest of the pitch – if they’re bad, move on. I’ve often found, however, that patience wins out. If I can keep a positive attitude, I usually reap some reward. After this first tip my flautist friend passed and commiserated on the slowness before setting up further down the street. But like a power curve my tips gathered momentum from there. Two middle schoolers each tipped me a dollar – each! Take that businessmen groups! I called after them “You are very kind!” with a genuine smile. It’s all about that. Throughout the pitch I felt more relaxed and open to talk with people between songs, less engrossed in my own problems and songs.

And then the deluge of the second half began. Three UT students with a DSLR on the same photography assignment politely asked for a photo. They enjoyed my playing and snapped maybe fifty photos before requesting Wonderwall. A man bored with his girlfriend’s indecision in the costume shop emerged just as I began and delighted in the song’s energy. He stayed with me the rest of my pitch, tipping me a dollar at a time whenever he felt particularly buoyed. The students requested Kids and I could see they were impressed by my rendition – and then knew they were when they tipped me a ten dollar bill – my largest American tip thus far. The man filmed me for his requests – Yesterday and other oldies on his iPhone and people began to gather – a snowball effect. These new audience members rarely tipped, but in that moment I changed the entire feel of the street. I created a hub of life and joy and that’s what I’m after.

The students left just as an SUV pulled into a parking space directly in front of me. They rolled down their windows and leaned out a bit to listen, the bright-eyed outdoorsy ish girl in her twenties rapt in the passenger seat, mouthing along to The Rose among others. I walked up to her and asked for requests. So kind in manner they asked for Stand By Me and Hotel California, and then other oldies. A few songs in the boyfriend got out of the car to tip me a wad of ones.

I needed to meet Bram that night for barbecue, but I stayed as long as I could in gratitude of my audience, though the tips from passersby dried up. The flautist returned to chat and when he looked into my case his eyes went wide with a “WOW!” We shared in my success and happiness, though later I did not purchase a pendant from him, but offered him conversation and solace. A little boy of around four began to ask me about the Spiderman in the window and I entertained him in conversation for awhile between songs while his parents looked happily on. When I sang my From Dawn to Busk at the end, I meant every word.

Earnings: $26.21, 1.7 hours
Song of the Day: Wonderwall – Oasis

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