Sunday, September 28, 2014




This is the number of times I went busking this week.  Even so, it was a joyful week for performance.  On Wednesday evening Mark, my newest PHANTOM TIDE band mate, and I, played at the BUSHWAKKER BREW PUB in REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA.  Then on Thursday, I joined my other band mates of the GRAND TRUNK TROUBADOURS (GTT) for a gig at EXTENDICARE ELMVIEW. 

At BUSHWAKKERS I sang for my supper; at ELMVIEW I sang for free.

At the BUSHWAKKER BREW PUB the patrons were washing down their Shepherd Pies, Wild Boar Burgers, and Bean Burritos with Blackberry Mead, Baron Bock Lager, and Arctic Dark; 
at EXTENDICARE ELMVIEW, the residents were dipping gingersnaps in their freshly brewed black tea.

At the BUSHWAKKER BREWPUB,  Mark and I were paid a significant fee, were given a hundred dollar bar tab, and were earning a percentage of the food and beverage take for the entire evening.  We made money.

At ELMVIEW EXTENDICARE we sipped iced Adam’s Ale, and indulged in an unlimited supply of gingersnaps.

At the BREWPUB the patrons come in droves to hear another authentic edition of Wednesday Night Folk … with Busker-style obscure folk tunes and original songs from PHANTOM TIDE and guests! 

At ELMVIEW our patrons were the permanent residents.   

The BUSHWAKKER BREW PUB is a bar; EXTENDICARE ELMVIEW is a care home.  And which would be the venue of choice for a performer?  If performance were my ONLY livelihood, hands-down upon my guitar strings, I would choose the BUSHWAKKER BREWPUB.  Since performance is not my livelihood, I really prefer the uniqueness of both.

At the BREWPUB we get to meet the sound guy (always a guy it seems) and the server girls (always girls it seems), the barkeep and … the many patrons who come up between sets to inquire about our music.

At ELMVIEW we get to meet the residents as they shuffle early into their chairs, and then individually stand in line to thank us when we leave.

This week at the BREWPUB there were no surprises.  The staff members treated us royally and were EXCELLENT … EXCELLENT … EXCELLENT.

This week at ELMVIEW there were no surprises.  The staff members treated us royally and ... WE MET RON!

Here is how it went down.  I was the first member of the GTT to arrive.  Before unslinging my guitar an elderly gentleman approached me.

“Are you Neil?”  He asked.
“Do you have the playlist for me?”

Bewildered,  I handed him the playlist.

Ron looked over the playlist, walked over to a drum set in the corner of the stage area, and did some rat-a-tat-tats, along with some rim shots and symbol hits.
Then Nick (another GTT member) arrived.

“Meet Ron," I said to Nick, "our drummer for the evening.”

“Oh … nice to meet you, Ron,” stated Nick, smiling and as puzzled as I was.

The rest of the band arrived and we did our thing.  Ron was highly skilled and spectacular with the sticks.  Included in our playlist was Roger Miller’s classic, Trailer for Sale or Rent.

“I did that song with Roger a couple times,” Ron said at the end of the gig.  “He came through Regina in November of 64 and needed a drummer.”

Hmmm ….

“And I did some of those same songs we did tonight with the Everly Brothers when they came through back in 1957,” he said.

Then out came all the iPhones.  This was a rare brush-with-celebrity photo opportunity!


Enough grandstanding.

Thinking of what to write about in my blog this week, my fellow band and busk mate, Darren, posed the notion of busking for nothing.

“Busking with a closed guitar case would be a social experiment,” he said.

Hmmm …

A BUSKER by definition is a person, who entertains in a public place for donations of money (mainly), though sometimes receiving food, drink, or other gifts.  I’ve seen buskers doing card tricks; I’ve seen buskers drawing caricatures (I’m that busker, too); I’ve seen buskers standing still as living statues; and, I’ve seen buskers dance in drum ensembles. 

Here is my Neil Child style skinny on guitar and harp busking: 

On any sunny and windless day I mess my hair and I do not shave; I don a white t-shirt and faded jeans;   I cinch up a black belt with a big shiny buckle; I lace on freshly polished black boots; I search for the perfect pedestrian busy buskspot; standing behind my open guitar-case (strategically seeded with fins and toonies), I strum my twelve-string and blow my harpoon.

It’s simple and works for me.  I’ve applied this formula hundreds of times in my home city, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and elsewhere, mainly Western Canada, while on buskation.  This past summer I practiced this same formula busking my wares in Amsterdam, Limerick, and Dublin.  I have repeated this busking pattern literally thousands of times.  Like I said, it is what works for me.

I have nary, not even once, thought of busking with a closed guitar-case.

Darren’s suggestion poses some existential thinking. (Notions as these, atypical for the hoi polloi, are typical for Darren.)

Why would a guitar busker purposely strum with a closed guitar-case?

Hmmm …

I suppose doing so could be the symbolic and harmonic expression that the music market is currently being saturated with the technological ilk of FACEBOOK and YouTube.  (As for me, I’ve certainly no quarrel whatsoever with technology, for I believe it is our human nature to be so curious and invent thereof.  I, too, am ever so guilty of such narcissistic endeavor – just check out my YOUTUBE account down the right column on every header on every blog entry that I write.  I am as Janus-faced as the wannabees I mock and scoff and write about.)

Or I suppose it could be that our navel-gazing, narcissistic, phenomenal adventures with the internet and YouTube have somewhat cheapened the plebeian impressions of real musicians.

Hmmm …

Just as there are millions of people spending millions of dollars in religious adoration for rock stars and their reality-television impersonators, methinks there will always be buskers performing on street corners for loose change.

Real buskers strum for the paucity of pity, having a guitar-case open to to collect real coins.  A busker strumming behind a closed guitar-case could, indeed, offer a certain entertainment, whilst being a living and decorative piece of sidewalk art in the process.

A busker strumming behind a closed guitar-case, would be significantly be more worthy than a living piece of art and foofaraw.   

A busker strumming behind a closed guitar-case could truly represent a palisade for purity, offering one of the most simplest of pleasures -- the rejoicing of a moment in song!     

Sunday, September 21, 2014


To begin my blog entry for this week:

I abhor buskers who do not adhere to common-sense etiquette, having complete disregard and disrespect for the sisterhood and brotherhood members of the profession.

Searching for the best buskspot, I started my stroll down the REGINA FARMERS' MARKET at exactly nine o’clock a.m.  Surprise, surprise … I picked a place near the same spot I chose last week, and the week before, and the week before that, and … I really am a creature of habit!.  My chosen spot seems always to be near the vendors who smile and welcome me every Saturday: 


Betwixt Dave and Chuck, I was thrumming and humming by 9:30.  It was a bit windy but the air was warm and the sun was shining bright.  Just before 10 o’clock a carrot-top clown with a very shiny and bulbous red nose, a big red grin and perfect picket teeth arrived (suddenly) at my side.  He requested that I play Puff the Magic Dragon while he sang.  Following his strict musical guidelines of strumming only in G, C, and C, I did just that.  And then he wanted me strum  Little Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly.   

Hmmm …

Detecting my reluctance to play for his imaginary kiddies’ parade, he eventually thanked me and left.  I like clowns, but whilst I am busking in my attempt to represent the quintessential Americana strummer and harp blower, I did not want to be bracketed as a clown.

And then came some real DRAGON'S TEETH.  He was short and slight and twenty-something, with his long hair sticking out from under his gray hoodie, and he was wearing green army pants and knee-high black army boots.  He set up with his acoustic guitar within fifteen feet of my station.  What to do.  I let it ride while deciding on my strategy to rid my audio space this buskerhood imposter brother.  

Hmmm ...

And then she came along.  Of similar dress in army fatigues, she nary gave me a glance as the started to sing along with her hooded companion.  What to do.  I let it ride, ride, ride. 

Hmmm ...

Within ten minutes, Hoodie Boy and his girlfriend abandoned their spot to go for a back massage, right next to where I was set up.  As he drew near, I gave him the thumbs up, thinking he’d decided to ditch his space as a gesture of respect.  This is what I thought.  

Hmmm ...

And then they came.  Two blue-stocking ladies, in the age range of emerging adults, traipsed by, one carrying an accordion, the other carrying a conga.  They set up exactly where the hoodie guitarist and his companion left off, and left the acoustic guitar, case still open.  Strangely, I watched the two girls greet and high five Hoody Boy and his girlfriend.  One of the girls picked up the acoustic and began strumming, while the other one pounded the conga.  And in a blink, the hooded one and his girlfriend returned to their busk spot and resounded together in strong song.   

Hmmm …

I temporarily packed up my guitar, leaving it with Chuck, while I searched for either Dee or Ada, the Market directors.  Explaining my situation to Dee, she walked with me back to my busk spot, to personally inspect my complaint.

Dee did tell them to change locations out of respect for the other acoustic busker – me, and also requested they pay their ten dollar busking fee, which they knew nothing about.  Peace at last, I thought, even when Hoodie Boy, to whom I had given the thumbs up, began to glare at me.  It was not terribly disconcerting and … I pretended not to notice.  

Hmmm ...

They left and so did Dee.  However, shortly after they returned and Dee did not.  They returned with a guitar and the two ladies in duo melody (I hate to admit in great melody) sang Leaving on a Jet Plane.  

Hmmm …

Getting close to noon I decided to take flight rather than fight.  (My consumers were munificent – my take suffice.)  However, I could not help myself; seeking Dee on my exit I explained their dastardly behavior. (I like this word, dastardly; it connotes a kind of evil in 50’s melodramatic fashion.)  Dee, obviously upset, suggested that I ought to approach them. For one shining brilliant, bullying moment, I thought about it.  In might-is-right manner I seriously considered the confrontation.  After all, my bona fides as a busker (strumming on sidewalks in Western Canada and Western Europe) and my busker alterity (tough-guy-cowboy wannabee) for the past decade ought to intimidate.

Hmmm … 

Though fists clenched, reason prevailed, and like a good Buddhist, I decided to follow my ahimsa (I am presenting to be a Zen Buddhist – I remind the reader that I enjoy the academia of Zen, but am not an avid disciple.)

I suggested to Dee that for me to do so would just be regarded as confrontational, and that she should be the one to do it because … it was Market business and she was the Director.   

Hmmm …

Later at home and still annoyed, I checked the REGINA FARMERS’ MARKET website and found the rules for BUSKERS:  

Regina Farmers' Market Busker Policies

At our Market we choose to have quality goods, and expect those that wish to busk at the Market to offer the same quality performance for the enjoyment of the public that attends Market. Buskers can show up at the beginning of Market and start right away, but be aware that we have some new busking policies. The Manager maintains the Street Closure for the Market area, and thus is in control of what is presented at Regina Farmers' Market.

Buskers will only perform their own music.  This is due to Tariff fees charged by SOCAN on copyrighted music from other artists. You are allowed to sell CD's of your music at the Market. No other items will be allowed.

Buskers (whether in a group or an individual) will pay $10.00 for their space each Market. The Manager will come around to collect sometime after mid-day of the Market. 

Buskers must change positions from their positions at the last Market. This way other vendors and customers will get a chance to hear something different each Market.

Buskers must ask all vendors within a 50 foot radius of the spot you have chosen for permission to play in that area. (Please be considerate that some vendors are losing their hearing and have trouble if you play by them.)

There will be no profanity allowed in your performance.

Management reserves the right to suspend your attendance to the Market for any reason. You will be notified of this by a paper notice. Please note that typically the largest complaint the Manager hears is that Buskers only know a few songs, try to improve your repertoire before you receive your notice.

Thank you! Happy busking!

Hmmm … 

Hoodie boy and his comrades asked no one for permission.  Hoodie boy and his comrades sang only covers.  Clearly, these actions were in direct violation of the REGINA FARMERS’ MARKET BUSKER POLICIES.

In VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA, where I sometimes busk, the rules are few and simple and REGULATED. 

  • Amplification is NOT allowed.   

  • Only one busker per block is allowed. 

  • Buskers are allowed just two hour sets, and then must move. 

  • All buskers require a busking license, of which the accompanying tag must be displayed while busking. 

Not so strangely, these rules are pretty much the same in every tourist destination. 
My proposal for the REGINA FARMERS’ MARKET is a simple one.  Respecting the present Market policies (the board members’ best laid plans to date), I shall formally request the following guidelines be added and adhered.

  • Keep a respectful distance, especially between musical acts. (A musical act and a non-musical one can be closer together, but should be careful not to interfere with one another’s visibility/traffic flow.)

  • Respect a captive audience. If your location is such that everyone who hears you is just passing by, then you can be as repetitious as you want.  If you are close to market vendors, change your tunes.

  • If you amplify your music, keep it at a decent volume. 

  • Be sure to keep the pedestrian traffic flow readily accessible to your nearby vendors.

  • All musical performers must audition for a license to busk at the market.  Upon success, the license tag must be worn at all times whilst busking.

I abhor buskers who do not adhere to common-sense etiquette, having complete disregard and disrespect for the sisterhood and brotherhood members of the profession.

There ... I have pulled the Dragon's Teeth ... having vented my anger in my wordswords! 



Saturday, September 13, 2014



The perfect word to describe such an imperfect day for busking.  The weather for the Saturday FARMERS' MARKET was ... drizzmal.  

Instead of busking, I had some band business with GRANT FREW, manager of the BUSHWAKKER BREW PUB in Regina.

We (PHANTOM TIDE) have been there before (see my blog entry PHANTOM TIDE:  THE MAKING OF A BAR BAND … Saturday March 8th).  At that time Grant had on his marketing poster,  PHANTOM TIDE … A FOLK TRIO WITH A PERVASIVE MARITIME SWAY OF ORIGINAL SONGS – MIXING THEMES OF LOST LOVES AND OPEN ROADS.

PHANTOM TIDE is booked again at the BUSHWAKKEER BREW PUB in just a couple weeks, Wednesday, September 24th to be exact.  Our previous gig there included Whitney on vocals, Ray on bass, Darren, of course, on guitar and vocals, and I on guitar and vocals.  All our original songs were written by either Darren or me.  Well that was then and this is now.

Whitney has a new career and is busy, busy, busy; Ray has an urgent appointment he cannot postpone; and Darren may be flying back to Cape Breton on short notice.  When I spoke with Grant today he convinced me to go solo.

“You’re a busker, Neil.  I’ve seen the videos.  You’ll be fine.”  He said.

Hmmm …
I am a busker, not a solo stage performer.

Hmmm …
I used to be a singer in the band, SHARIE AND THE SHADES.

Hmmm …
I’ve played and sung solo on the streets, first time registered in downtown Victoria as SEAHORSE.

Hmmm …
I’ve strummed and sung for over a dozen years with the GRAND TRUNK TROUBADOURS (GTT).

Hmmm …
I’ve played in a bar before (at the MERCURY), along with my GTT band mates, Eric on fiddle, and Nick on guitar.

Hmmm …
I’ve strummed and sung for years on the sidewalks in the CANADIAN WEST and lately on those in WESTERN EUROPE.

Hmmm …
I really am a busker, really not a solo stage performer.

However, come September 24th, just days away, I’ll be slinging my guitar and harp, solo onto the stage at the BUSHWAKKER BREWPUB.

This shall be the classic story of A STRANGER-COMES-TO-TOWN.  The stranger-comes-to-town plotline is most evident in the Western genre (see any duster starring Randall Scott, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, or Steve McQueen).  Here is the skinny:  A tall, dark, stranger with an unknown past rides into town (save for McQueen who was blonde); the stranger is always mighty handy with a six-gun; and the mystery surrounding that stranger creates an important part of the mood.

Meanwhile back at Bushwakkers ...  I’ll be that stranger-come-to-town.  I am tall, dark (hair colored chest-nut), and strikingly handsome.  I will be a stranger to those in that dining and drinking crowd , save for the few who will recognize me as a street corner guitar busker, or street portrait artist, who is mighty handy, not with a six-gun, but rather a twelve-string, and to boot, well known for a lightning draw, taking no longer than fifteen minutes to sketch any stranger who dares stand up to him.

The STRANGER-COMES- TO -TOWN is loved partly because of his air of mystery, and partly because of the apparent cracks in his armour.

Meanwhile back at Bushwakkers ... Right at the stage get-go I’ll be found out. My simple game plan relies on a simple presentation.  My playlist (as is the regular PHANTOM TIDE playlist), set up abecedarian, rather than by theme.

FACTOID:  In my abecedarian fashion, my first song shall be AFRAID TO FLY, fashioned after a local girl whom I truly hope is sitting in the audience.  She did not like the idea of HER SONG, but eventually conceded to allowing me to publicly post it.  (Check it out by clicking on my Youtube account in the right margin of this blog header.  My band mate, Darren, is singing it.) I'll keep my fingers crossed that the darkly theme of Afraid To Fly does not adumbrate any further events during my solo course of the evening.

Meanwhile back at Bushwakkers ... I imagine myself to be seated atop a tall stool at centre stage.   I’ll have a single microphone and my twelve-string Seagull acoustic shall be plugged.  For me, the quintessential busker is a solo guy with messy hair, t-shirt and faded jeans, blowing his harp and strumming an acoustic.  And it makes sense for me then, to imagine the quintessential folk singer-songwriter as one who sits leg stretched on a stool, spilling elequent anecdotes about each of the songs presented.   

Cap-a-pie in my stage alterity, I shall not be unlike the costume in my stark reality: windswept-looked hair, tailored white or black long-sleeved cotton shirt with collar, fitted denim jeans, and on my feet a pair of polished black leather boots.

To satisfy my fandom, adding to the stranger’s interest, will be the few dropped clues from a past being made apparent.  Fans just may get to find out his story.  This stranger must come to town for one reason or another.  His arrival must have a strong sense of purpose.

Meanwhile back at Bushwakkers ... I imagine there will be some whispers when I walk onto that stage.  Some will no doubt know me from the street; others will know me from work.  Close friends and colleagues from my workplace will be there to cheer me on (pun intended), and they will know other people in the bar and therefore between, or more realistically during, songs, offer drams of gossip of who I really am.

The ending of the stranger-comes-to-town in the Western theatre is usually bittersweet. After a satisfying resolution of sorts, the stranger decidedly cannot stay.  As surely as this stranger arrives, he must so leave.  The stranger-comes-to-town must ride off into the sunset, to the trail of who-knows-where, and truly breaking at least one missy’s heart in his exit.  Pardon my sexism, ma’am, stated with a ten-gallon hat in hand. 

Meanwhile back at Bushwakkers ... Whether I am a solo hit or not, I do know from studying English Literature and being quite the movie critic of especially Westerns, it is better to wound the reader or movie goer than to induce a slow but steady sleeps.  Really, dear reader, I am not that delusional cowboy riding his steed out of Dodge and into the sunset; rather, dear reader, I am an alleycat’s paw taking a solo swipe at a brew pub.  'Tis bittersweet because though I'll miss my bandmates, I shall psychologically survive enough to tell about it. 

I will ride in, and I will ride out.  And when I do ride out, hopefully at worst I leave an audience experiencing only flesh wounds, rather than the mark of Zzzzzzz’s -- (and again, pun intended).