Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Croydon Acoustic Duo

I had a few minutes to kill in Croydon one Sunday morning before picking up my 14 year old from a sleepover in the neighbourhood.
I couldn't believe I'd never been there before! Everything I saw made it seem like a lost oasis of cool. On the funky old high street, "The Strand", there were more cafes and bakeries per metre than Leichhardt.
The top notch establishment looked to be Cafe on Strand - opposite the train station - which was basking in the day's early rays.
'Round the corner was this duo - merging perfectly with the low key vibe. Merging literally in an aural sense - their unplugged performance did nothing to intrude on the peace of the passers-by.
I think they were doing "After Midnight" - real mellow - and a perfect, pleasant fit for my takeaway impressions of Croydon.
NB: First BuskerDu example of cutaway editing!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Paddys Grumpy Old Stoner

My first reprise - turns out this chap is a multi-instrumentalist. Multiple personality too.
When I put him up in May playing his spaced out ukelele (in the same spot) he was completely mellow - like his shipment of Nimbin's finest had just arrived that morning.
This time - woo - the brown acid? He tried shooing me away and lectured me on how I'd obviously be selling his music to multi-national corporations. "Ah bin doin' this here fer twenny fi' yars" or something, and I had no right to impinge on the CD sales upon which his precarious livelihood depends.
Uh huh. So anyway I filmed him for a few seconds and looped that over another of my covert audio recordings. Scruples, schmuples. As you'll hear, the Orb-esque violin'y meanderings actually merge quite nicely with the Paddy's ambience.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Newtown Town Hall Unplugged

Gusto - that's what I liked about this guy. That, and he's the first busker to get the association with the blog title.
Anyway - here he's on a BUSY intersection, Saturday arvo, and he's having no trouble making himself heard above everything - without amplification.
I reckon - with that gusto, and his totally up attitude, the world's his oyster.

George Street Violin Duo

Wow, this pair were really good. Great skills. Great composure in the face of heavy George Street aural competition. And great material to showcase their combined playing talents. Sounded like Nyman or Glass - maybe a contemporary version?
Anyway, they were so polished it made me wonder whether it was one of those cases your hear of where members of the SSO or similar will 'slum it' on the streets just to see reaction. Went to an unusual 2 minutes on this act.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Leichhardt School Fete Harmonica

I do wish I could play harmonica - just without all the effort of that tiresome learning. Actually, I used have a little 4 note Hohner on my keyring (well, 4 blowing & another 4 sucking). It was pretty cool - I could belt out 'Waltzing Matilda' as I strolled across the Domain. And the mouth organ maestro that set up in the Domain carpark tunnel (great acoustics) showed me "You are my sunshine" (wow, he must be 90 at least by now.)
Anyway, this talented fellow - the "Dr" Tony Eyers - was honking up a storm in support of the Leichhardt School Fete. Despite pro level abilities, not much attention was being paid to him - kind of a soundtrack to white elephant browsing. In an unusual plug - he gave me his card - you too can master the blues harp here.
Or watch the Dr's worldwide cafe project.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Darling Harbour Strummer

The calm, assured manner of someone who clearly didn't start yesterday. Maybe this is how the jangly mojo boys might evolve. Pare down the equipment - (but add a chair), keep the material 'up' but also a little more 'easy'. And select locations that do some of the work for you.
The jangly boys had passerby volume, but also a lot of sonic competition. Mr Strummer here had an acoustic advantage but also a spot with a killer backdrop and natural lingerability.
Darling Harbour maintains a steady stream of foot traffic and the atmosphere is ripe for stopping and taking in just what he was offering. So, I'd rate him 'seasoned'.
(What was that song, though? It sounded like it could go forever...)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pitt Mall Jangly Folk Mojo

If there's a busker 'mojo' - the elusive quality that draws the punters in - these guys seem to have nailed it. Check out the crowd. Yet what's going on here?
Sure, this pair have ticked off a few of the elements that add to success - they have the upbeat energy of youth, they play jangly uptempo numbers with just a hint of the exotic, they project a certain bohemian lifestyle vibe that suggests they haven't bowed to the Man (though, somewhat counter to that projected ideology, they do have a ton of sophisticated equipment) - oh and they elevate - up on milkcrates for visibility.
No, the point is - they appear to be having an enviable amount of free-spirited fun - but none of that is reflected in the audience. They're hanging about but all look fairly stone-faced and unresponsive. (Well, there was this one guy who you can see shuffling off at the beginning - HE was getting into them but may have had to head back to the special bus).
It's as though the crowd viewed them as a reminder of what they are not - and then have to return later to their "drab, wretched lives".

Monday, August 26, 2013

George Street Maracas CCR

I don't know why Creedence doesn't show up on more busker playlists - I've been humming this the rest of the day. At first glance, this act seemed a little 'spartan' - and I admit I first paused more out of a sense of sympathy.
Then the genius became apparent. The voice is actually not bad - it could have been good once, before the 'lifestyle' took its toll - and the performance is practically a capella. Talk about your bare bones, self accompanying rhythm section. Maracas? Genius.
Unique execution, and an ultimate road-ready kit you can stash in coat pockets. The soul of busking.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pitt Mall Percussionist

I've seen this guy a few times now and I'm always glad I did - his energy & genuine enthusiasm is infectious. On top of that, he's got impressive skills - if there's a better plastic bucket drummer out there, I've yet to see them.
Seems a cunning set up actually - I bet they all fit into each other for a compact, robust and portable act with good novelty appeal. No electric amplification needed either. All in all a gold star member of the busking fraternity.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bondi Junction Chanteuse

Very polished product this one - professional even - a cool, professionalism. So, how viable is it, I wonder, incomewise? And is that the main objective? She didn't seem to lack for confidence or proficiency - probably a result of considerable 'field' experience. So just practice in front of an audience wouldn't seem to be the main mission.
She didn't seem to be having a wild time either, cool as in not 'on fire', you know - mind you, that could be her getting into the mood of the pieces - the one before was a Jeff Buckley, and he's not exactly a knee-slapper. A few coins were dropped in her case during my brief pause - maybe it adds up to be a nice little earner.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bondi Junction Pickin' Vic

Is this a bit unprincipled? This fellow said yes to a picture but no to a video. So I took a snap and then did a covert audio recording (which he didn't technically veto). What was I going to do with a video recording? Sell it for big bucks to MTV?
Anyway, "Pickin' Vic" - or whatever he called himself - said "I'm a jukebox - give me a request". I could tell from his style he'd be all over 'Girl from Ipanema', so I tossed my money and and got my surreptitious blog entry.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Town Hall Chamber Duo

Wish I'd had the chutzpah to do this as a young 'un. A pair of confident dudes so at ease with their instruments they look around at the passers-by more than their fingers. And they're having a good time doing it together with a mate, while making a few bucks in their socks. Yeah, they'll look back fondly at these days...

Friday, August 9, 2013

World Square Violinist

I'd seen this senior gentleman plying his craft a few times and his repertoire usually involved grinding out chestnuts like "Click go the Shears". But as I was waiting for the bus one evening, I realised I didn't recognise this at all. It certainly wasn't anything from the Rolf Harris songbook. What was it? An obscure classical piece? A reworking of a contemporary pop hit? Peter Sculthorpe?
Whatever it was, I liked it much more - and it wasn't hurting his takings either.

Pitt Mall Mainstream Dude

I'd just starting filming this guy ("filming"? - you know...) when he stopped. Oh well, I kept the camera on him and I like the way it's a brief window into the little cosm buskers inhabit in the pedestrian flow. The general hubbub surrounding him as he (a little self-consciously) prepares for his next piece is pleasing - especially the way it blends as he starts playing. His ouvre is not one that I'd generally seek out to play at home, say - but it's a polished performance that fits the environment well.
If you fancy seeking out more he's: 

Hyde Park Hare Krishna

All together now! Hare Hare, Hare Kri... Wait a minute - are these guys bona fide buskers or merely 'street performers'? I wondered that as I watched, then I noticed they were accepting currency contributions, so - technically - buskers.
Interesting range of involvement from the 'troupe'. Of course the lead dude with the mike and the hand organ is fully present in the number - with only half-hearted hand percussion from some backing members.
But the bass player, curiously, looks completely lost - and isn't it, like, the ONLY song they do?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Leichhardt Folkies

This is what I'd like to see more of - this group clearly love what they do (Is it insulting to assume it's "Folk"?) - and they're sharing it with the world. (See, you would never ordinarily call me a Folk fan (I just bet this is some more arcane sub-genre*) but when it's live and heartfelt like this, I'll respond very favorably)
They seemed to lose a little of their boldness when I started pointing a camera at them (though they happily obliged when asked) - I get the feeling they're not hardened to the spotlight's harsh glare. Hopefully I helped them become accustomed to the attention and they'll build confidence.
Anyway - who ARE "they" - my family asked "What are they called?" - I didn't think to ask.
So, guys, if you read this - let me know.

*You'll hear near the end I'm interrupted by someone who recognised me - it is my own neighbourhood - they suggested it might be "Pirate" music

Friday, August 2, 2013

Paddys Market iPhone Karaoke

Somehow Chinatown seemed the right place to see this for the first time.  Hook up a mike and your phone to an amp. Fire up the karaoke app - and you're away.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Birkenhead Cellist

We lowly bargain hunters at Birkenhead Point were graced one Sunday morn with the presence of "Australia's Leading Cellist" - whew! Though, if I'm being upfront, I wouldn't go so far as to describe his tones as all that dulcet. He was in danger of being swamped by all his marketing bumpf and drowned out by his backing track. ALC seemed much more concerned with image than performance - dressing way too obviously decades younger than he could get away with and sporting a painfully apparent dye job. On top of that, his heart was clearly not in it - his rendition of The Shadows classic was rather 'A-patchy'. [space for scathing pun comments below]
All in all - a sad representative of the busking fraternity.

Friday, July 5, 2013

World Square Rocker

This guy fuckin' rocked! If I was an A&R man, I'd have whipped out the contracts on the spot. I think the song's called 'My Girl' - he seemed to be mostly dreaming it up as he went - but the totally unself-conscious self-belief - awesome. Liked how he wove a 'thank you' seamlessly into his riff. And he's patriotic.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Paddy's Electric Jew's Harp

The corner of Paddy's Market that seems to attract the city's more 'fringe' performers - nobody seemed to be paying much attention to this guy - "electric Jew's harp"? - wow, I thought it was great - definitely Utility Fog material - wish I'd shot more

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Circular Quay Self Accompaniment

Cunning, see? Essentially he's chosen a song which, none too subtlely, says "Throw money". He got 50c out of me. Anyway - very tech, this street performer. Normally I prefer my busking to be 'unplugged' as possible - but this guy used his gear to good effect.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hyde Park Old Man Neil

Covering Neil Young - tricky territory because I'm guessing there's always the temptation to sound like ol' Neil when you sing. Mark's guitar was handy ("Hi Mark!"), but I think he could work on making the vocals more his own if he wants to loosen more passers-by purse-strings. (Just an opinion)
The busker who may rank as the best I've ever encountered to follow this principle was a chap doing a totally Smiths set - and his angle was to be completely cheerful in his interpretations. It just so worked - and he drew an eager crowd.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Flautist wows 'em at Town Hall

"Do you mind if I film you?" "What 's it for?" "I'm doing a blog on buskers." "OK" ...and isn't he electric? [NB: the most commonly used spot I've seen so far in the CBD]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

AGNSW Fiddle

Alright, this is cheating a bit really - I didn't actually film this guy live but I chanced upon the clip in a great new exhibition at AGNSW and it  just seemed too serendipitous to miss. it's also a bit longer than I'd usually do but it's worth the trip - wait 'til you hear what happens at 00:54 - chilling.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Glebe Markets Syncopators

Caught this upbeat combo coming out of Glebe Markets - great spot for 'em. Their sound is very Cheap Suit Serenaders with what looks like the 'leader' taking great pains to emulate R Crumb himself. I bought the CD. [you'll find more from them on youtube]

Friday, May 17, 2013

QVB Recorder

"Having a go", read his card. Some of our buskers are so talented/eccentric that busking seems a cosy and rewarding niche for them and us the audience. But this fellow, gamefully slogging tired old wheezers, makes me a little sad that he can't find a more productive and fulfilling way to contribute to society.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Paddy's Electric Uke

He's clearly made a long-term commitment to the alternative life. And he seems certain of the hypnotic beauty of his deceptively simple amplified strumming. I agree. The moment I heard it I thought it would not be out of place on Peter Hollo's Utility Fog on FBi.

Woolies folkie

Location, location and a bit of a talent. Some guys are right in the niche where they belong. I don't imagine this guy finds a lot of ads on Seek that match his resume. But his shit is together on this gig and  he's wisely chosen one of the heaviest pedestrian hotspots in town between Woolies and the QVB. And as you can see in just these 60 seconds, he's doing a tidy turnover.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Brilliant Beatbox

Situated on a popular performance spot... I don't know if I'd get this bloke's CD - but as street distraction, brilliant! And no instrument - talk about a portable income generator. That said, even though I liked him and contributed to his Conservatorium fees - he wasn't making a killing...

Banjo Maestro

This gentleman is a favourite of many years among all the Sydney buskers I've seen. Always shoeless, always a little distant - except for the flash of a smile when he recognises me. He has an air of detachment from what he's doing - yet what he's doing is with magic fingers.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spanish Uke

OK - we'll start with this guy (only 'cause I already had a web friendly size video that I put up on Facebook) - his name's Tom Ford or something (is that some designer?) - I'll get back to you
Anyway - I first saw him playing Spanish style guitar weeks earlier - thrashing this tatty box with acrylic talons & he was amazing - bought the CD
So, later I'm walking through Town Hall station - he's only bought this ukelele THAT DAY - and was "just fooling around with it" - bastard