On a number of occasions I’ve been immortalized via someone’s art, and it warms my heart each time.
The latest is this wonderful impressionist image by fellow Pike Place Market artist, Dan Fleming. This is a 24″ x 18″ art print on stretched canvas and it now happily hangs in our staircase (where it’s also still viewable from the living room).
I don’t know if this will work out to be a good “for sale” item for Dan, but I’m sure happy to own one. It hits me right in my personal fantasy™.
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.
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.”
On Friday, December 23rd I was at Pike Place Market, having busked a couple sets with Sketch as Hobbit & Hare. Sketch went home when we were done but I stayed around so that I could help my sweetie pull the carts back to the lockers. (Many crafts folk at Pike Place rent locker space to store their product in at night. The lockers are spread through the market, mostly on below ground levels.)
As I was exiting the elevator coming out of the lockers I noticed two young ladies walking by. They were probably late teens or early 20s, and they were immaculately turned out in 1940s style. Anyone who knows me at all well will realize this look is something that makes my little heart go pit-a-pat. So I stood there and had one of those old man experiences. That’s where you stand with a goofy half smile on your face thinking, “Lawsy, she’s lovely!” and then it hits you what a tired, saggy, old man you are and your heart breaks a bit.
But… just as they’re passing the smaller of the two turns and starts coming towards me. At first I’m thinking, “Crap! Was I staring and drooling or something?” and then, “Naw. She probably wants a picture of the mustache.” (This is a pretty common occurrence.) But I was wrong both times.
Instead, she grasps my arm with both hands and says, “I love your voice! I have one of your CDs at home and I listen to it a lot.”
Boom! That was the Sting moment. My knees are quavering a bit and all I could manage to croak out was “Thank you.” But I considered that a victory, because I really would not have been surprised if all I could say was…
Hobbit & Hare are excited to announce we are playing the legendary Seattle Jazz Vespers show at the First Baptist Church on Harvard Ave! This is a once per month secular concert series that has been running for the last 15 years. For this show they’ve decided to feature Seattle buskers so there will be three acts and some tunes from other genres. (Hobbit & Hare will be staying more or less true to our jazzy roots though.)
Also featured are Dan and James. Dan Schindler is a friend and fellow ukulele ace whom I first met via SUPA (the Seattle Ukulele Players Association). James “The Emergency Folk Singer” Nason is an old pal and bandmate from my days in the Emerald City Jug Band. They play some old jazz, some hokum, and novelty tunes from several eras. In addition, their beards are magnificent!
Last, but certainly not least, is Pretty Shady String Band. Annie Ford and Greg Paul play old time, Tin Pan Alley, ragtime, and country blues with vocal harmonies. I’ve been busking at Pike Place Market for 33 years and have seen and heard a lot of buskers. Annie and Greg easily rise to the upper reaches on the “best of” list. You won’t want to miss this performance!
Seattle Jazz Vespers is free and open to the public, no tickets or reservations are needed. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Free parking, family friendly, refreshments after the conclusion of the concert. Come early for best seating.
The artists will each perform one short set and during their break a free-will offering will be taken to support the musicians, followed by a short non-sectarian inspirational message. The performers’ second sets will conclude the two-hour vespers concert.