When I bought my ticket to come to Australia, I agonized a long time over the decision. You see, the JS show just happened, and I was not there. Now that people are reporting back to me on how it went, how people felt, and so on, I feel quite strange. I can’t figure if my purposely not going was actually a healthier move. If my heart is there, should I not have been, too?
I forayed into the city once again for a go at an earlier pitch – the rush hour just felt too busy for me. A good Tuesday for a lunch pitch, I figured. I headed to Martin Place to find a spot, but a special event captured most of the sound and groundspaces. A “golden slipper” booking booth – Australians are unhealthily keen on gambling on horse races. I didn’t even know people still did that. A nice busker playing some kind of Chinese mandolin recommended I try below the Queen Victoria Building if I didn’t want to try the Devonshire Tunnel again – those are the only spots he knows of that are friendly for non-amplified players. I met a classical guitarist aboveground there, who didn’t know about the tunnel but treated me quite nicely. The tunnel seemed far too busy but I thought I might have a go – but on asking shop workers and security guards it turned out I’d need permission from the subway station’s manager, who wasn’t around. So back to the tunnel beneath Central Station.
This time I played in the adjoining tunnel to Railway Square, a bus depot (odd, eh?). I met a duo just as they packed up, and they told me they only knew of this pitch, too, but that they played there more for exposure and practice than anything else, relying on gigs for income. John and Yuki gave me their contact information and bid me good luck. I love that about Sydney – the buskers are friends here, helping each other out. The passersby are allies, too, with scornful looks few. Unfortunately with such a surfeit of talent people are generally quite jaded and tune it all out. Rather like New York, in that sense. I got just two tips. One from Ande’s girlfriend, who saw me set up and start with High & Dry.
But let’s not dwell on that. Let’s commend the beautiful colours of that stretch of tunnel. Let’s mention the comments of a high school girl passing by with her friends as I sang my Colin Hay song, “Wow, that’s so beautiful.” over and over constantly looking back and lagging her friends a bit, face holding some kind of gentle longing. Let’s focus on the Iranian man flying back home and giving me his unused bus tickets as a tip.
When I emerged from the tunnel I ran into another busker on George street above, whose voice was essentially inaudible through his P.A. as compared to his guitar. I believe he’s named Richard. He matches the description by Tammie and John and Yuki of a “professional” busker who sings too high for his voice and too long. He told me he sings overly high on purpose so as to stretch his voice, which is precisely the opposite of what Bram taught me. I think I’ll go with the choral director on this one. He invited me to play with and launched immediately into Under the Bridge, then asked for my capo for Hey Ya. Luckily his guitar was tuned a full step down (unbeknownst to him) so this effectively meant I needn’t transpose it, myself. We jammed out on a couple of such songs – I’d always sing the harmony – and his hour earnings of under three dollars ballooned by about eight during this time. As we parted I expected him to offer me my half but he never did, never even thought of it. I suppose I don’t need it as much as he?
Richard recommended I try busking in the suburbs rather than the city. Just as many other buskers have told me, city folk are far too used to buskers and life is too fast paced. I haven’t tried busking many non centers, however, as they’re more difficult to reach and I was content in the small cities of Europe. In America I was pretty sure busking would be a total fail in non-cities, for the cultural implications. But here in Australia… good advice, I’m sure. On the flip side, he represented much of what I dislike about the itinerant busker – an aura of stench from lack of showers, nappy dreads, horrid facial hair, disgusting clothing, bumlike street persona… Oh well.
Earnings: 3.70 AUD, 9 bus rides (worth $18.00)
Song of the Day: I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You – Colin Hay