Friday, December 30, 2005

Santa's pants got stolen this year.

Pat Quinn, another West Coast transplant from Pennsylvania, decided he didn't want to be Santa Claus at the Telegraph Avenue Crafts Fair this year, so they hired just any old Wino - who vanished after the first day, taking the red trousers and the plastic Putees with him.

So Quinn wound up strolling the Avenue in his father's old Santa beard, the rest of the get-up, and a pair of mostly red tie died longjohns. A perfect Telegraph Christmas. During the weekends leading up to the Holiday, he and his unlikely helper - with a trenchcoat and a guitar case - ducked the raindrops and brought cheer to the Ave.

I wish I had a picture of us catching a shot and a beer at Kips, a sports bar just off the Avenue...Santa needed to get out of his scratchies, but needed to get away from where any little ones would see him, so we staked out a dark corner to refresh and Whiskefy.

A warped Norman Rockwell would have loved it...

But I left the Avenue to fend for itself on the 24th, and Jane and I drove up to my Uncle's house in the Sierras, and spent the Holiday with my Uncle, his 2 sons, and my Nonna - 94 years and still packs a Whallop.

A Lovelier little old lady I've never met - I'm biased, but I'll bet few have been as lucky. My Grandmother is tiny and fragile, but enjoys perfect health and is a fountain of good cheer and love that more than explains her knack for survival. Upright, mobile - she forgets where she is about every 10 minutes, but looking around, spotting a Grandson and a Christmas Tree, she figures the situation out over and over again. She keeps telling me how pretty my wife is.

My Uncle's boys are 9 and 11, and their gifts were mostly Daisy BB guns and a couple of Winchester sheath knives. An electric guitar (not MY idea) got about 10 minutes of play - I played carols on my National. The younger one is fascinated, but shy...which, I think, is a good sign.

We brought Slot Cars - a memory of a happy Christmas years ago that payed off. Jane was concerned that "kids today" played with Computer Games and wouldn't care for real little cars zipping around the track...she was wrong. The track was in constant play, with the kids, and the adults. A good toy is a good toy.

We got back late yesterday. Now I'm working on a cheesey poster for my upcoming local bar gigs - I'm off the street until March, let other Buskers get rained on. There was a Saxophone playing one of my regular spots today - damp and forlorn, pushing his way through "Yardbird's Suite", he fit the rainy canyon of Shattuck Avenue well as I walked by, trenchcoat cinched tight against the damp.

Cinched tight, holding my Grandmother's hugs close to my chest...

Dan Lange

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wandered off...

My Computer went down last June and I got so wrapped up in my non-digital escapades that I didn't get around to dealing with it for a while.

I spent the Summer doing my usual thing - bringing my National Guitar to venues all around the Bay Area.

I also spent a few weeks in Spain - I was singularly dissapointed by the Street Musicians there, badly played insistant Accordians and overamplified guitars singing phonetic Beatles covers, one Aussie in Barcelona with the biggest Digeridoo I've ever seen...

Friday, May 20, 2005

More Rain!

It's been a wet week, and that's trimmed my opportunities to play.

Yesterday, I was booked at the Cannery. It was a heavy mist, not quite rain, here in the East Bay. But when I looked to the west, I could see a beautiful smear of blue beyond the Golden Gate.

By the time I got to the City, of course, the blue was gone. A steady drizzle was falling.

I played in the rain (under a cafe umbrella) to make back my train fare, had a lovely chat with a Yorkshireman and enjoyed a free Crepe (Ham and Cheese).

Even the bad days have their good points.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Philly Piper

One of the best and most educational experiences I had when I was first Busking was dealing with the "Philly Piper" - he played a set of customised recorders on the streets of Center City, and he could play just about anything. He had a hand painted sign, and a radioactive grin.

He also played Flute and Sax, but on the street, it was Jazz Recorder.

He was always friendly and upbeat, always encouraging, and when he found me playing in one of his spots, his response was brilliant.

He suggested that he and I add a game to our performances - if one of us went past a corner where the other was playing, we'd get together on one number - and then switch places, changing up. We did this many times, and it added a cordial vibe to the day. The times that I left the pitch to him, I always walked off feeling really GOOD - and that was a good feeling to bring to the next spot. The audiences that saw us doing this seemed to get a warm fuzzy out of it as well.

Monday, April 18, 2005

All around with Doggie Jomo

The variety of shows I've done in the past few days is pretty cool; I played at a Mental Health facility for Bread and Roses, a Wake at a Bar in Oakland (with my pal Doggie Jomo - pictured above - on the house Piano, Captain Mike on Harp, Pat Quinn on Bass and Travellin' Joe on drums - all unplugged), a Birthday party in the City, and the Blues Brunch at Travellin' Joe's Home Cafe in Berkeley.

A good time.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Conflict in Covent Garden

Years ago, I lived and performed in London, England for a while.

One of the best venues for "al Fresco" music at that time was the courtyard at Covent Garden - a spot with auditions and a schedule, not unlike the current situation at San Francisco's Del Monte Square.

A popular act there was a group of 5 Chinese musicians, playing traditional Chinese instruments. They always seemed to be on the schedule - I mean nearly every day. Often written in as a substitute, but - much more often than anyone else.

I found out why. One day, after my set, a LARGE west indian fellow came up to me, and handed me 25 quid, and told me that the Chinese Musicians were buying my next date - and that I was not to come back after that. His manner was grave, and serious. I looked him in the eye, and he had trouble meeting mine. I asked him "Is this what it sounds like?" and he informed me that I did, indeed, have the right idea, and that he hoped we could avoid any physical unpleasantness.

Over a Busking Pitch!

I laughed at him, told him fine, just fine, no problem, and to report back to his "employers " that I wouldn't show up at Covent Garden any more - but that if they ever had a chance to travel to America, they'd better avoid Philly. He laughed, actually relieved, and said that he would tender my message and my fondest regards.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Al Fresco music

Here's a typical scene, taken last summer at the El Cerrito Farmer's Market, just a few blocks from my home.

After a week of inactivity, I spent a few hours yesterday busking on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley - the East Bay's hip strip. You'd expect it to be good pickings for al fresco music, but it's a noisy street with delivery trucks, and a reputation as an "Open Air Insane Asylum" - latter day hippies wander by with drums, guitars, and whatever else they pick from the local middens. As a chance to get my voice back in shape, though, it's great - I have to sing LOUD to be heard. It also gives me a chance to catch up with a few of my friends who are street vendors there.

El Cerrito Posted by Hello

Friday, April 08, 2005

Rainy day activity / Vs. the String Witch.

A few months ago, someone suggested I start one of these to record my busking and performing adventures.

I'm not convinced that I have many days that would count as adventures in most reader's minds. However, I've had a sore throat all week, and it's a wet day out, and so.

Many years ago, I was busking in the underground concourse in Philadelphia - specifically, in a glass tunnel adjacent to a broad, columned gallery that led to the trains to New Jersey. The acoustics were stunning, and the spot had long been the main venue of a blind woman with a seeing eye dog, who played fingerstyle guitar and sold cassettes. She and I had had a few unfriendly encounters .

She was nowhere to be seen when I scouted the place, so I opened my case, tuned up and set to. I was really enjoying the natural reverb of the spot.

This would have been the early eighties, so I would have likely been wearing a black leather jacket and steel toed engineer boots, black jeans and t-shirt, and a belt with a skull buckle. My guitar would have either been a cheap plywood dreadnought or the Martin D - 18 I aquired during that period. Hair - probably quite shaggy.

Anyway, after just a little while, she showed up and demanded that I vacate her spot. I informed her that there was no plaque with her name on it, and that I had gotten there first. She blustered a bit and withdrew. To a spot a short distance away, where she and her dog - just waited. Within sight.

I broke a string. Always prepared with spares, I changed it. And immediately broke the spare. Which I replaced with a string of close dimensions. Which also - instantly - broke.

I had enough money in my case to buy strings. I never played that spot again, and I kept well clear of that surly blind busker.