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.