Tag Archives: Gig Stories

New Sound System + Extras!

Snake Suspenderz at Chateau Valley Center assisted living facility – 2/23/2018

The mighty Snakez have played at CVC a number of times. They hire us about twice a year. For a while we’ve been cobbling together a “sound system” that consists of two street amps and a few mikes. It has worked, but not real well.

Last December I had a surprise influx of cash. One of the things I did with it was buy a nice, portable, four channel sound system (a Yamaha StagePas 600i), suitable for use by a duo act like Hobbit & Hare (my most frequently booked act). While we have a wedding gig on the books out in mid-August, until the other day, had no chance to use the sound system “in the wild.”

Since I first bought it I had thought that it would be possible to “squeeze” enough space to hook up a simple quartet. When this recent CVC gig popped up I suggested trying it. So I pulled out a Behringer Eurorack UB1202 mixer that I’d had (and used) for a number of years and added it to the mix.

We plugged the three vocal mikes into the Eurorack and then fed that submix into one of the main channels on the Yamaha. We used two of the other main channels on the Yamaha to plug in my ukulele and Thadd’s guitar. That still left us with one main channel on each unit. Hmmm…

In a room this size we usually don’t have to plug in a mike for the tuba, as it’s pretty loud acoustically. Unfortunately, the sound system jumped the level up enough that Sketch, at the other end of the band from salamandir, was having a bit of trouble hearing said tuba. Oh well. Live and learn.

Because, in the main, it was a great success.

The picture was taken by Todd, the fella in charge of events such as this. They had decided that Mardi Gras was a month long celebration and this was a Mardi Gras party. Unfortunately, the angle of the photograph only takes in the backdrop they put up for us and misses some of the Mardi Gras specific decorations they’d put up.

You’ll only be able to spot one of the speakers from the sound system, over to the right amidst the balloons. The other speaker is just to the left of Sketch and his drums. The main and sub-mixer we used are both so small that they are entirely hidden behind me. That’s a good thing. That’s why I spent the lion’s share of the unexpected cash on the Yamaha.

Happily, it turns out I made the right decision there.

One Person Can Make All The Difference

Hobbit & Hare at the Royal Room – May 11, 2017 (photo by Queenie Sunshine)

Last Friday Sketch and I went busking at Pike Place Market. We had a pretty lame first set but, hey, we’re troupers and we hung around a couple hours until our next turn came up at our favorite spot.

We were down to one more song in our second set, and it was promising to be more lame than the first one. We were all, “Yeah, it’s the season. What can you do?” and were about to launch into our last tune–It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)–when this guy stopped, said a couple of very nice things about the act, and tossed a bill into the case.

I said thank you very much and he wandered off. About that time I got a look at the bill and went, “That’s not a $1 bill!” Indeed, I was correct. Closer examination revealed it was a $50.

Boom! One generous person, at practically the very last moment, turned the entire day around.

A couple weeks ago I saw a new busker. She was playing accordion, and doing a good job of it, but her case was pretty bare. While I was listening she started to pack up. I said, “Quitting already?” and she explained how maybe she was just being impatient but the day hadn’t treated her well. This has happened to me countless times. But I’ve learned to do the whole set, even if it sometimes doesn’t pay off.

I don’t know why I didn’t let her know the moral of this story, even though I was familiar with it from previous experience. And the moral is: “Never give up! Never Surrender!”

Because you never know when that one person is coming by.

Best Busking This Year (so far)

And to think, when I woke up last Sunday I thought the best thing that would happen to me was putting on new underwear!And to think, when I woke up last Sunday I thought the best thing that would happen to me was putting on new underwear! (Because I finally got around to replacing my elderly, tattered ones. And yes, it is kinda sad that this would be so exciting.)

The really scary part is that we almost didn’t do Sunday. Sketch had to move his art studio because the building it was in had just been sold and told me Friday that he might not be able to do the weekend. I said, “Can we skip Monday instead? Sunday has been really good to us.” Fortunately, he agreed.

So we came in to Pike Place Market on Sunday and were able to get the 10am and noon sets on our favorite busking spot. Our first set was a bit over $37 each (not bad at all) and then our second set was amazing. I don’t recall seeing that many bills larger than singles in a given set before. Two 20’s, a 10, and half a dozen 5’s. Add in the 1’s and the chump change and our second set was a bit over $67 each.

Do the math kids. That’s right, we each took home $100 (plus small change) for our two hours of playing. And Sketch was able to leave the market by about 1:30pm and still get some moving done.

It’s really not just the best this year, but in the top busking days ever!

And yeah, the new undies were nice too.

In The Immortal Words Of Han Solo

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don’t do this!

This past Sunday I did a class A “screw the pooch” maneuver. I could’ve avoided it altogether if I’d just paid attention to the terse advice Han gave to Luke way back in that first Star Wars movie. But I’m getting somewhat ahead of the story. It went something like this…

Until the Monday previous to this tale, the winter busking had been nearly entirely dismal. We (Hobbit & Hare) kept hoping for a sign that busking season had opened up, but we were barely getting blips on the proverbial graph. That Monday, for the first time this year, we managed to cross $50 each for a two set day. Our Thursday was a trifle lame, but on Friday we did slightly better than Monday. Excitement ensued. We decided that, with the holiday weekend and all, we’d give a try Sunday at Pike Place Market to see what we could do.

Turns out we could do surprisingly well. We got there in time to claim the 10am slot at our favorite busking spot, the Joe Desimone Bridge. For the first 30 minutes of our allotted hour the money was coming in at a very nice pace. Then, around the 35 minute mark, I broke a string.

Were I still playing guitar, that would be no big problem. As long as I had a replacement string, or the string broke at the bridge and I had space to repair it, I could be up and flying in 5 minutes or so. A ukulele’s nylon strings take a day or so to settle in. The busking day was over.

Fortunately, ukulele strings don’t break very often. I think this string was like number 12 in the 14 or so years I’ve been seriously banging on the uke. I had busking weeks with guitar where I broke more than 12 strings. Unfortunately, that leads to a false sense of security on the subject. And it’s right there that the poor old pooch got it.

See, I own 2 nice acoustic ukulele and 2 that I can plug into a sound system. I bought the second of each type specifically because I was concerned that when the rare string broke, it’d be barely into one of my paid shows. If you suddenly have to stop the show when busking it’s a bummer. If that happens at a paid gig you’ve managed to not only put a black mark on the ol’ reputation, but also to spoil someone else’s special event.

That’s a Bozo No No, Timmy.

Since I was so laser focussed on the paid gig aspect, and one of my constant rules in busking is to carry the least amount of gear possible, I let the overconfidence take charge and didn’t carry the spare on busking jaunts.

In short, I didn’t listen to Han when he said:

You can’t really tell how a busking crowd is going to react from one minute to the next, but we were well on track to having a set where each of us cleared $50+ when that string snapped. That’s very disheartening. Especially when it’s the result of your own fuck up.

So I’m going to listen to Han from now on and also to that other philosopher, Blind Blake, who said, “That’ll never happen no more.”

From C to Shining C

Hobbit & Hare at the Gathering Grounds – photo by Lucifer

Last night Hobbit & Hare played a couple sets at Gathering Grounds in Sultan, WA. It was a slightly smaller crowd than when we performed there last December, but they were just as appreciative and generous. In fact we had an H&H first, your basic personal best™… but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Coffeehouse gigs are often busking gigs. My friend Thaddeus calls them “tips and treats” gigs. Americans came up with the ponderous term “street performer” when “busker” already existed but busking is just playing for tips. Whether you’re inside or outside doesn’t matter. In fact house concerts are pretty much busking gigs, though there’s a built-in stronger urging to tip in a certain range.

So, you might be thinking, what about this personal best™? We had our tip bucket out last night–of course–and right after the last song a fella came by me (I was talking with another person from the audience) and I heard him say, “I tipped you a $20 earlier.” (This was true, I recalled it clearly.) And then he goes on, “But I’ve changed my mind.” (Bummer that.) “I’ll swap you this,” he says, as he snatches up a Jackson, “for this.” and drops a Benjamin in instead.

In all my years of busking, I’ve never gotten a C note in the tip bucket.

Can’t say that anymore, can I?