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).


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