Busking Can Be Brighton Le Sands, Day 2

A group of energetic young children greeted me in my return to Brighton Le Sands. I ventured out for a later pitch, beginning around 4.30. The kids came by in the middle of my second song and quickly requested No One and then Tears in Heaven. One of the younger girls of maybe seven loved the latter song, staring with rapt wondrous eyes only a child can have. The two older boys tossed around a rugby ball as they all cavorted around me, and I got hit in the head by it during one song, which we all laughed off. The elder boy felt bad, though, and he was the first to tip me. Eventually they’d dart around and find coins from somewhere – parents? shop owners? I’ve no idea – and drop the 5 to 20 cent coins in very reverently. The youngest girls spent loved crouching down in front and counting them: “Six money!” I love the way small children are unafraid to crouch on their heels and look at things up close, touch things, point. Two girls sat in front of my case for a few songs playing with the coins, and on leaving I saw they’d organized them by color and then size in a nice line.

So wonderful I had these children to help me through the beginning of my pitch. What with the other pedestrians scarce and less tip friendly than the previous Friday, I’d otherwise likely would’ve pulled into myself and been a bit more reserved and less open and smiley about my performance. And when they left I really felt at home. Really felt like I loved busking again for the first time in a while. Of course, my elation fed back onto itself and people responded, I felt more wonderful, people kept responding, and so on. Today I played with that knack of what to sing when, and to whom. Comfortable enough to move around, walk back and forth from my case, to talk randomly with passersby between songs and feel no ill will when they didn’t tip. Best of all, I felt comfortable enough to sing at a normal volume with the lighter car traffic. The cars that stopped at the light rolled down windows to smile and enjoy, too.

Back to busking as I love it, as in Scandinavia, those same patterns of tip demographics re-emerged. My tips came from young women, children, and older folks. Young men looked at me askance, as if troubled or unsure how to react and the old men were polarized between looks of disgust and haughtiness and questioning, solemn, head-nodding tips. The shop keepers on either side of the mini plaza both offered their smiling approval.

So I played longer than I intended. A African Kiwi woman passed by once and her child, who’d been among the terrors earlier, pointed out my list when I engaged them friendily, but not assuring them I didn’t need a tip. I think the ability to say that honestly, to play for the pleasure of it and for the pleasure of passersby is such an intangible, difficult to find thing. With this warm, casual attitude, she requested Don’t Speak, delighted with my Em take on it. She tipped the fifty cent piece she had, and on passing the other way recognized the Dream, calling out “Fleetwood Mac!” And so initially suspicious becomes a friend and ally. I’m reminded of Blågårdsgade.

A little later on as the sun set to my left, one of the young men exceptions tipped me and took a seat on one of the benches behind me. This pitch I didn’t really worry about those surreptitious audience members, realizing that to think on them would likely drive them away. He didn’t make a request at first so I continued to sing some oldies, but after two songs I took my list and walked back to give it to him. He asked for Where is my mind. Now, there’s another benefit to asking for requests – generally speaking locals request songs that other locals are in tune with. Like Brighter than Sunshine in Sopot garnering surprise tips, this song suddenly netted me quite a few, too. I sang it with feeling and ease now that I’ve moved it out of falsetto and into a comfortable mid-range full voice.

When I headed to sing that song, a kindly Eastern European man who I assume to be Greek (as the neighbourhood’s predominantly Greek), clapped me on the arm and gave me a broad smile and a thumbs up with a “You great.” A little later on I lent him my guitar on his request and he gave me some advice in halting, earnest English. To get an amp, play from five to seven and my entire case would be full, he’s sure. My finger picking was lost on people, he explained, even though it’s difficult, and that I needed to play loud chords (he demonstrated both), but that with an amp I could demonstrate what mastery of the guitar I have. And then he really moved me: “You so great. What you do really great. I really appreciate.” A solemn nod, a rough hand gentle on my upper arm, eyes shining wet. “You make community… like this.” Clasping hands firmly, eyes so hopeful in mine. And I felt bad I’ve already bought a ticket out for Tuesday night. When he left, he tipped me by way of his child, reminding me to heed his advice.

You know you’re doing well when an old Asian lady tips you. One tipped, looking confused and searching my face for guile while I sang Hey Ya. I ended my pitch after these two girls who’d rushed back and forth giggling wildly – maybe at me? I’m unsure. I wonder what it was.

Earnings: 25.10 AUD, 1.6 hours
Song of the Day: Don’t Speak – No Doubt

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