Monday, May 3, 2010

  • Self-taught
  • Acquired instrument by means other than purchase or gift
  • Instrument need not be traditional musical instrument and may occasionally be means of conveyance, storage enclosure, or prosthetic device
  • Pee smell
  • Will not take gratuities in food
  • Visible butt-crack
  • Set list includes no greater than two songs plus shouted profanity
  • Weeping
  • Deafening
  • Seeks eye contact


  1. The Pathetic Earthling3:35 PM

    You didn't miss the saxaphonist while abroad?

  2. Anonymous3:53 PM

    There is a musician at the Lincoln Park Zoo who plays a traditional Asian instrument that looks like a sort of simpler, bare bones mini violin but played like a cello (but I have no idea what it is at all, google suggests an ehru ?), and it is lovely when he plays traditional music on it.  But no, he often chooses to play Jingle Bells and Old MacDonald's farm which are 1) annoying when played on any instrument and 2) extra weird on his traditional instrument.

  3. isaac_spaceman4:08 PM

    I don't ever miss the saxophonist, but he's only partly responsible for this post.  When I was getting a sandwich today, a guy rode his bicycle into the middle of a bunch of outdoor tables (at Lightening [sic necessary no matter what you think they're trying to say] Food) and started hammering at his bicycle with some drum sticks while yelling something unintelligible.  I was a good 15 feet away and could smell him.

  4. Meghan4:15 PM

    My favorite Ann Arbor street musician was this guy with bongos who'd sit on the corner and make up songs about the people walking toward him.  He was so much more fun than any other street-requester-of-money.

    Street performers need to learn that they don't get money simply for existing with a bad hairstyle, sweaty clothes, and a rubber band.

  5. Squid5:43 PM

    Did he have a little sign that said, "I'm not moving 'til you people give me ten bucks"?

  6. Steph5:53 PM

    I was once volunteering at our local art fair when a pan flute musician took up residence nearby. His repertoire had perhaps 4 songs, one of which was Wind Beneath My F$#%^$%# Wings. He never left. I finally did. 

  7. Joseph J. Finn6:11 PM

    I've seen this same guy, and I do believe it is an erhu.  He's quite good, as is the accordian player in the Loop (and I say this as someone who usually can't abide buskers).

  8. isaac_spaceman6:16 PM

    The way to fix that guy is to just put on your best Will Ferrell Robert Goulet voice and sing along.  I realize that Robert Goulet didn't sing "Wind Beneath My Wings," but I cite Goulet just because Will Ferrell's Goulet voice (and, if possible, mustache and sportcoat) really would be the best accompaniment to the pan flute version of this song I could imagine.  How many choruses would it take for Zamfir to pack up and move (or punch you)?  And you might get a dollar or two out of it.  What could go wrong? 

  9. I guess I prefer Sonny and Annie. 

  10. Mr. Cosmo6:22 PM

    NYC's buskers were swept out with the squeegee men.

  11. You still get the odd (sometimes very odd) busker on subway platforms.  Union Square is a particular magnet, as is Herald Square. 

  12. Heather K8:46 PM

    That guest was me, but OLD MACDONALDS FARM!!!!!  And the accordian busker in the Loop RULES!

  13. Emily W9:03 PM

    Nearly every afternoon/evening there's someone playing on the Church Ave-bound G train platform at the Metropolitan stop, in Williamsburg. Usually it's just someone singing and playing a guitar, but every once in awhile, there's the guy playing the accordian!

  14. The Pathetic Earthling9:43 PM

    I was in Seoul a couple of weeks back on business and I was really amazed that, while rare, beggars were shockingly aggressive.  On a very crowded afternoon train, with really no room to shuffle, let alone move, a fellow came into the car, held his hand straight out, and screamed at the top of his lungs what I imagine meant "I am crazy and have no money.  Give me money."  Again and again as he plowed his way from one end of the car to the other.  No one said or did anything for about five passes - two or three stops -- until I saw someone give him what I think was a W500 coin - about fifty cents.  Then he moved on to the next car.

  15. calliekl10:23 PM

    See, I expect buskers etc when I go into Boston or NYC... but the most aggressive street people I've run into are in Portland, Maine. If you make eye contact with them, forget it, they're going to follow you, asking for money, as you walk into stores, restaurants, I've even heard of guys trying to get into the passenger sides of people's cars. I've had people yell and run up to me from across the street and a block up. Portland is a very cool, artsy community otherwise (with a surprising large Jamaican population), but the street people make it almost unbearable.

    Also, there are still awesome buskers on the Red line, often at Porter.

  16. Back around 12 years ago, there was this great duo that routinely sang at Porter and Davis -- two women singing Irish folk-ish music (friends? sister? lovers?  I could never tell).  I wound up buying their CD.  Good stuff!

  17. Mr. Cosmo11:50 PM

    True, but I get the sense that most of these folks fall into two categories: a) decent, but nothing special, and possessing an official NYC permit; and b) frightening, with no permit.  What I don't tend to see are the funky, talented, ready-to-run-at-a-moment's notice, high-quality busker of other cities. 

    One of my favorite (favourite?) busking moments came in London 15 years ago.  Two upbeat folk-singer types planted themselves at bottom of an incredibly long escalator during rush hour.  Every person descending into the station had at least 90 seconds of enforced stillness to first listen and then fumble for change -- these guys were really, really good.  There was easily a couple hundred quid in the hat when I tossed in my coin.  But the best part was the third guy (clearly part of the band) who stood by nervously, constantly scanning the crowd for cops, and ready to grab the hat and run at moment's notice.  That's what busking is all about.

  18. Paul Tabachneck11:21 AM

    I'll admit, I'm out less than I used to be, partly because I'm playing more regular shows and partly because of the effing new automated voice that informs you every 4 minutes about each train on each track, despite the lighted sign that has already imparted the information.  Is our number of blind/illiterate people so high that we need this level of discourse about the pending train?  Really?

  19. Paul Tabachneck11:23 AM

    My personal favorite stop is Astor Pl -- the uptown side has a nice open area and the bodega owner and I have a great rapport.