Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Let's Busk Shit Up!

It has always been a whimsical aspiration of mine to busk my way around the world; travelling the globe with no more that a beaten-up guitar by my side. I've arguably achieved part of that ambition, but I'm yet to even apply for a passport. Having played a handful of gigs with previous bands and music projects, busking seemed like a logical progression: particularly as my current location Winchester is one of the few cities in the country in which you're free to busk without a permit. To make the whole experience more enjoyable (both for me and the defenceless passers-by) I enlisted the help of housemates Theo, James, Becky and Brett to sing and pitch in with various guitar playing and cajón (or 'drum-box') expertise. The city-goers would be in for treat. Of course, we carefully considered a suitable song-list for the day (based primarily on songs we already knew the lyrics to) and dutifully practiced in preparation for the gig – at times even playing our instruments simultaneously. Of course, whilst practice makes perfect, spontaneity and improvisation would give the performance a real edge, and so, to add an element of uncertainty to the event, we drank heavily before the day.

The next memory in mind centres around waking up at six in the morning on Saturday with the sickly scent of budget cider in my nostrils and realising I had no recollection of how or when I came to be lying in my bed: always a thoroughly reassuring start to my day. Not long (enough) later I awoke to a thunderous banging at the door which I can only liken to that of a furiously impatient housemate trying to punch down my the door. Or Brett, trying to punch down my door. I would use the normal cliches to describe how I 'groggily staggered out of bed' but they make my actions sound far too elegant.

A short practice and a Starbuck's mug of Asda's finest Smart Price instant coffee later and the newly-formed band of House 106 was skipping down the sunny hillside to Winchester town, singing along to a ukulele as they went. Well, at least, we travelled on foot and
had a ukulele. Theo and I had also taken the liberty of donning braces and trilbies to give our musical outfit a more troubadour-esque flare.

After searching for a spot amongst the hoards of shoppers and fellow (and far more competent) buskers, we settled on a sunny and rather more
relaxed location. We set down the drum box and lay open a guitar case – tossing in some shrapnel in true busker style. A few false-starts and a lot of unsure mumbling later, we were away, Theo and Becky crooning along to Hallelujah whilst I picked hesitantly at the ukulele. To say we 'got into the swing of things' feels like an ambitious phrase, but I think it would be a fair to say that we 'got into some sort of swing of things' and went so far as to gather a stationary audience at times – particularly keen onlooker's going so far as to photograph and even film our antics. The majority of our profits came from an apparently endless stream of children ushered by likely-pitying parents to 'go and put a shiny coin in the nice band's hat.'

On balance, things went quite well. We didn't set the world on fire with our music, but then we did avoid being set on fire for our music. We may not yet be up to the challenge of busking our way across any oceans, but there's a chance that at the end of the day we could all afford a coffee. Between us. 

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