Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The GroWiser Band

The GroWiser Band Photo: Kevin Hazelton

One of the things that I learned when grabbing the interview with the Supa Lowery Brothers is that I don't want to handle all the audio equipment and take all the photographs. I was only able to grab them on that outing and when I found a flute player in their first spot I was too tired to grab a second interview.

So when I set out again I took actor friend Kevin Hazelton, who also happens to be a photographer, to take the pictures.

Another Tuesday and we're on the move. We've been going up and down the Financial District because it's closest to where we both call home, but today we're on a mission. We want Bushman, a notorious Fisherman's Wharf fixture who 'hides' behind two plastic branches and spooks tourists. You have not been to San Francisco until you've been "BOO!"ed by Bushman.

I'll spoiler you right now, we found him but only when I had to get Kevin back to work and were never able to interview him. It is, in fact, the greatest failure of this project.

What we did find, however, was a duo from The Growiser Band featuring founder Hubert Emerson on keyboard and Sahar Miller on saxophone. As a saxophonist myself, I have a weakness for street performing saxophonists.
Hubert Emerson Photo: Kevin Hazelton

Growiser is performing in a designated area at Fisherman's Wharf. The Wharf handles street performers a little differently. Obviously, this is the high traffic area for those valuable tourist dollars and a great place for a street performer to be seen. There are fixtures, like the aforementioned Bushman, the usual spraypaint and caraciture artists, dance crews, 'robot men' (which it turns out, is a group...also never got that interview), bands, and musicians all competing for space. The Port Authority has a Street Performer Program that assigns spots and time slots.

For performers this does cut down on territorial disputes which can be a source of frustration, but also places a limit on the time they can promote themselves.

Growiser has set up under the iconic Wharf sign with a keyboard handling both drums and Emerson's playing while Sahar stands next to him playing alto saxophone. Like the Lowery Brothers, between songs they sell CDs and tell anyone who asks about upcoming shows.
Sahar Miller Photo: Kevin Hazelton

They are seasoned vets of the Wharf street performers. One of the reasons that it took me so long to getting to cut this particular interview was not only that it was two people, but because Emerson had so much informative stuff to say on the nature of street performing and the politics of it as it pertains specifically to the Port Authority.

For them, it's a trade off. Unlike the Lowery Brothers, they have not been moved after setting up. And their foot traffic is there to gawk. Regulation means once your slot is in, it's in. But it also means restrictions, something I found that street performers do not deal well with.

One of the main themes in every interview was a sense of self-determination. For them, the port authority is a trade off, trade some of that self-determination for a prime location and no hassle for their three hour slot.

Three years later, Growiser still has their Wharf schedule on their website. If you're going to San Francisco, check in on it and them. Afterwards, if you head west towards the beach, you might encounter Bushman as well and can consider your visit to San Francisco complete.

No comments:

Post a Comment