Saturday, September 11, 2010
Cap - A - Pie: An Essay on the Hat and Sole of Busking
After awakening the dragons, the enrobed Taoist priests slowly walked back to the temple, their heads bowed, their arms folded, their hands clasped. Pond Scum. Lily Dippers. Ship Out of Luck. Soggy Bottom Buoys. Do Oar Die -- these fifty foot monsters having just been released, were now splashing and gnashing about in Wascana Lake. These were the friendly dragons, their fundamental purpose being to promote better appreciation for the Asian Culture within the Regina community.
It was to be a fire cracker weekend of face painting, dino bouncers, wushu demos, blaring horns, and clamant crowds. We set up our busking bivouac just alow Pine Island, near the beer gardens, alongside the many vendors vying for business at the annual Dragon Boat Festival.
This day we had a third compadre, Trent from Trent's Guitar Studio in Regina. Trent plucked the melodies on the banjitar; Baron beat the rhythms on his cajon; I frailed the fills on my twelve-string. (Both Trent and I proved to be ambi-instrumentous that day, trading one another for the banjitar and twelve-string every half hour.)
The day was picture perfect with nothing but blue skies, chalk cumulus clouds, and the last of the warm summer breezes. The three of us planned for the weather by keeping our fingers crossed. Everything else we planned via rich discussion and debate. One discussion we had, for example, centred around what we would wear while busking, beginning with our head gear. In Psychology, wearing a certain hat for a certain entertainment purpose would be to present a False Self. But so what ... busking is all about perception.
It is traditional for buskers to wear hats, and of which, the bowlers, the fedoras, the beanies, the buckets, the ball caps, and the bandanas are the particular types I have never, ever considered. I do wear a derby on most banjitar occasions, along with a long sleeved crisp collared white shirt. I don this garb to present the tony look, rather than some hillbilly suspender presentation. I have also had a tam on my head while busking with the banjitar, and in doing so, have always felt like an Irish boxer (the human kind) especially when singing my revved up Worried Man Blues and Tom Dooley.
Busking in Autumn I like to be layered in my attire and usually have a toque on my noggin. Somehow a toque seems fitting for the likes of You Ain't Goin' Nowhere and I Fought the Law.
(Youtube Mic Christopher and Glen Hansard busking You Ain't Goin' Nowhere. Mic wears a toque and Glen is bare headed and they are awesome!)
In my band, but never on a busk, I've worn a conductor cap for Folsom Prison and City of New Orleans.
I've donned a cowboy hat on several occasions for cowboy songs, having a fondness for those of Ian Tyson, Someday Soon and Summer Wages. (The very first time I ever sang and played in public was in front of three hundred people with my bandmate, Judy. We sang Summer Wine, the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood version. I wore a cowboy hat.)
Christmastime we always wear Santa hats and sing lots of carols.
All said and done, when busking I am just another Bobby Dylan wannabee, just another folk singer/songwriter, hatless, and wearing either a solid black or solid white shirt, faded jeans, and polished black or brown boots. And I always sing my originals along my many favorite covers which include The Weight and Ghost Riders in the Sky.
On this Dragon busking day, we three decided to go with long sleeved white shirts over black tees, jeans, and work boots. We thought if it got hot, we'd peel and go with the blacks. Right after snunch the sun began to blaze and we were the men in black.
We also had a debate regarding our song list, eventually deciding on a total of nineteen tunes. Trent was to sing thirteen covers, and I to sing six originals. Soon into our busk, we changed our tune and jettisoned the song list. The ruck was too noisy and walking by too fast. Instead of singing, we reduced our style to pounding out three chord progressions. No opus here -- just three chords called out at random by Trent, and we pounded out each progression from three to five minutes apiece. And it proved efficacious! We even had a whimsical moment when a couple of mascots, the Grimace and the Hamburglar, began dancing to our tunes!
We are what we pretend to be (Kurt Vonnegut) -- On that day we pretended to be buskers!