Busking Can Be Brighton Le Sands, Day 1

On Richard’s advice and Andrew’s, I played a pitch in nearby Brighton Le Sands on April Fool’s Friday. This already afforded me one monetary advantage over playing in the city – no need to pay the absurdly steep $4.00 rail fare. Brighton’s main intersection of The Grand Parade and Bay St. isn’t the best busking location as the cars there go quite quickly and the footpaths run in very specific ways. Furthermore, on enquiring within the RSL club whether I might play outside, the man denied me permission to and told me I likewise would be unable to play in front of other private businesses – so I needed to find an open area.

I chose a little square/dead space leading to a car park with two squares of benches like you’d find in a mall. I decided to play right in the middle facing traffic and in line with the footpath. The girl working in the convenience store seemed keen to hear me play, too, so I started off with some confidence. And rightly so. I’d only realize much later just how much strain I put on my voice despite warming up thoroughly at home – again it’s hard to tell how loud one’s singing when cars are zooming by and there’s not natural amplification. At any rate, right as I began I received a flurry of tips – one from the woman talking with the nice convenience store girl, another thrown to my case from that same girl, another from a passing couple. It’s funny how the first few seconds of every pitch tend to be the most lucrative in Australia. That first song was Somewhere Over the Rainbow but I don’t think it mattered what song it was.

I kept going with this happy theme and snuck in a debut of my cover of I Will Survive, which actually gained me a tip. Tips came steadily and largely – few coins smaller than a fifty cent piece and tipped at least every other song. People of every demographic, too, even Indians and Chinese! I like playing in smaller places like this – like in the bits of Europe – with a steady trickle of locals who aren’t businessy. Unfortunately, they’re a bit harder to find when I fly through the places as quickly as I do. A man sitting and playing guitar sitting on a balcony of the top floor of the building across the street walked down and tipped me a gold coin as he passed with a smile. Drivers stopped at the stop light to roll down their windows, beep-beep, and smile or give thumbs ups, the construction workers across the way paused in wonder. For one of my last songs, Mrs. Robinson, three professional thirty somethings stopped to tip, talk with me, and asked to take a photo. What a marked difference in courtesy/treatment from the city!

I sang mostly oldies for the generally older crowd, but I don’t know if it would have mattered, either. You see, I like to think I’m tipped for my quality but oftentimes it’s mostly dependent on location and timing. Or the choice of song. I think that’s part of the reason I feel the need to project and thus oversing – I want to be heard and then tipped, not the reverse. Later on as I rested by the beach a woman who passed with her pram told me assured me that I could be heard four or five meters away, so probably I needn’t have projected quite so much. At any rate, one tip in particular underscored the fruitlessness of such vocal abuse – one lady tipped me saying “I can’t hear you, but anyways.” I responded, and she pointed at her ears. “I’m deaf.” and left a dollar. In direct contrast, a group of four men in business attire walked by halfway through the pitch and sat on the benches directly behind me, staying the whole pitch just out of my peripheral, chatting happily and/or listening to me, then getting up and leaving exactly when I started to pack up. Fail.

Looks artificial

Some cities boast beauty in a skyline, like Hong Kong. Some in their history, like Istanbul. Some in people – Copenhagen. Some in mood, some in weather, some in lifestyle, some in variety… What I notice most about Sydney, I think, has been the multiplicity of all these. Nature isn’t relegated to a “Central Park,” but integrated throughout the city. The botanical gardens sit right by the CBD, alive with bright birds and junipers and flowers. Macquarie Point boasts wonderful boulders begging to be climbed with just the faintest traces of maybe chalk. Down at Brighton the seagulls fly incredibly, wings almost clipping against the sand in beautiful envious horizontal floats while planes touch down in bright red at their insane speeds just beyond. At sunset in near the Opera House and all through the city the bats come out huge and translucently wing-ed; insects make themselves known chirping all through on the walk to The Rocks – unwise of them with the bats so abundant. Just off shore jellyfish shimmer like discarded plastic bags, and people, people of all colours and languages and cultures and foods and customs and manners and moods and histories and wants and intentions and incomes and educations and families rush or amble or sit or stand or lounge or sleep, all beneath the same strange upside down sky.

Earnings: 18.35 AUD, 1 hour
Song of the Day: Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel

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