Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Art of Busking

So, for four years I lived on Treasure Island in San Francisco.

What that means is whenever I traveled into The City using public transportation, my starting point was the Transbay Terminal at 1st and Mission in the Financial District, a block away from Market and one of the higher foot traffic areas of San Francisco.

During a gig working on an independent film my van was in the shop and I had to take BART to the locations (luckily it was filmed entirely on the peninsula) and every morning on the way out and every evening on the way back, I would pass a variety of amazing performers playing on the street for tips.

I've been fascinated by street performance for years. My first film for documentary class, long since lost, was a short called Free where I profiled and recorded street performers on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, California. Unfortunately, being who I am, I waited too long to get the footage I needed and was forced to film on a rainy day, limiting my choices.

But I saw so many amazing things being performed in the streets. A cello duo, martial arts and dance demonstrations, contact jugglers, guitarists, saxophonists, all performed on street corners while people went about their day. Some people stop, some don't. Some are good, some are just awful. But to me, it was always interesting.

There's a story that has been around the internet for a while now about violin virtuoso Joshua Bell performing in a D.C. subway where the commuters just pass him by. I won't really summarize the article here again, it's been summarized a lot and surely most of you have already seen it, but the idea is to recognize beauty around you.

In a way, that's what I was hoping to do with this project I started back in 2008. I wanted to bring to the forefront what I felt was an essential background to the cities that I loved so much, San Francisco and Santa Cruz. So, grabbing my audio gear I drug myself out and tried to find street performers who I could interview and present here on the internet, give people a chance to get to know these people, recognize them for the value they are to our urban experience.

I won't go into the 'what happened' or list of excuses why the project never got finished or off the ground, just to say that it didn't. And I've been disappointed about that for a while now. But after helping my brother cut a series of videos about his backyard R/C track I thought I might be able to use iMovie to cut the interviews I had managed to get and finally share them as a sort of omage to what could have been my Grand Street Performer Project.

So, over the next couple of days I'll slowly post the various interviews I've managed to cut and share them with you. Even though it is not as 'grand' as I had intended, hopefully it will allow a few people who read them to take a second glance at the performer they pass on the street and appreciate the color and texture they bring to our day.


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