Ri and Neil accompanied me to Nelson place, the waterfront promenade of Williamstown, where I started a pitch in front of yet another recently defunct store. I chose the spot for it’s natural amplification and position at a crosswalk leading from the touristy pier, as well as the shelter from the non trivial wind. My hosts sat at the nearby cafe after requesting Hallelujah. Tips came slow despite a good request vibe. I felt somewhast ill and woozy still, so after a collection of mostly silver tips I thought to give it a rest. Ri and Neil suggested I have a go at the base of the pier, where people gather in wait for the ferries. Though quite windy, people were quiet and no car noise and a good vibe made me test out my audibility on them, standing a few paces away.
So I had a go. For an absolutely phenomal pitch. I had a hard time positioning my sign/request list nicely in my case such that it remained visible yet didn’t blow away or turn over to obscure my case. My request list really characterized the pitch again. I found myself singing about half requests. From foreigners. Almost every person who passed favorably had a non-white shade to the skin. I can’t stress how surprising this was.
A group of malaysians smiled and asked in that trademark accent if I was a student, smiling to my response and tipping me well. A set of children became captivated with me and their father requested Nothing Else Matters recognizing his sons fascination with my guitar. Three passing men pressed me a five dollar note. A child noticed Zebra sitting in my case and voicelessly pawed at him before being chucklingly restrained by his father. Three times Tears in Heaven got the nod, once from a group of young men, once from a largish Singaporean guy with his sister and elderly father who seemed so gratified by my playing it we had a little bowing match as he walked down the pier, smiling so wide, once from a girl who reminded me of my singing teacher Gala, a singer/songwriter from Sydney who couldn’t stop smiling, took my card, watched me for many songs after her companion requested Yesterday after I’d captained their attention with a lively Hotel California. My voice warmed up over time.
Even the Japanese got in on the tipping, and let me tell you that, that is a rare thing. Two shy girls stood about a full meter away from me for a V sign posed picture, much to the chagrined amusement of their white friend and photographer, who tipped for them. Later on I happened to sing Ue Wo Muite Arukou just as another pair of Japanese girls passed – tiny in baggy white tees, loosely done hair of black and shocking orange – much too shy to say anything, taking photos and giggling, mouthing along, then darting in for a tip while I wasn’t looking a few songs later on their way back down the pier. I could feel the vibe and the vibe was oldies – Simon and Garfunkel and Beatles wandering into Fleetwood Mac and back with Sinatra and Nat King Cole.
And, of course, John Denver. He started me on the whole oldies kick courtesy of a group of quiet south asians. One stood reading my sign a while, looked carefully over my request list and chose Leaving on a Jet Plane while I finished my second Tears in Heaven. He waited patiently as I wrapped it up. Then, the entire way through his request, his eyes never left my face. Quiet, curious, appreciative, soulful, connecting on a wordless intangible level holding eyes a long while. His friend/brother steadied himself on a bench to my right and began crying, much to the amusement of two of the women in the group. One of the men looked on at the rest of us bemused with a “what’s the big deal” expression. Women in silk saris of green and orange listened somberly without expression or comment but the occasional gentle touch on the men. Just before the last chorus my requester pressed me a ten dollar note, still wordless, eyes still full of gratitude, and they walked slowly down the pier as I finished. On their return thirty minutes later I pressed him a CD.
Babies danced, parents gave tips to each of three children and the eldest girl demonstrated to the younger ones how exactly to bequeath them. The man at the the very end gave me a tip with a jolly look and a pleasant “Don’t look how much I’m tipping you.” holding his fist in front of my face and using his other hand to drop a loud thunk of coins in while I hold his eyes.
On my return, Neil called me in to their room to teach me two new songs, which we practiced for their friend and her daughter. He just happened to have Chopin’s C#m Nocturne lying around so I photocopied it, very happily in Melbourne I’ve stayed with three pianists in a row. Just before I left on a public transit oddyssey to swap hosts to Lily’s late at night, I sang them some of my originals. Their daughter Erin, who I’d seen little of while staying, told her mother (who told me when I finished) that she got goosebumps as I began, and never gets goosebumps. A magical night.
Earnings: 73.70 AUD, 1.7 hours
Song of the Day: Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver