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!     

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