The Busking Report: December 2011

When I started this blog I had intended the two main topics to be bikes & busking. Hmmm….come to think of it that might have been a good blog title. Dang!  Somehow, the bike part has totally taken over. This is not surprising, considering how much of my brain attic space has been filled with bikey things. Also, I have busked less this past year than others. I even missed a couple of football game busks which is something of a tragedy as they are usually  lucrative.

One of my busking implements.

Pretty much all of my performing these days is in the LRT stations for big events. I like having large crowds funneled past me through the train station corridors. This makes for efficient busking. These locations are controlled by a permit system. I have a permit for the Commonwealth Stadium station and my busking partner has one for the Rexall Place station. Together we can cover a lot of games and concerts. Having a permit is very useful when winter arrives as none but the most desperate of performers would try playing outside on the frozen streets.

Last Saturday night we played for the Edmonton Oiler’s vs Calgary Flames game. Non-local readers will find it helpful to know that there is a strong rivalry between these two Albertan cities and these games are always well attended. We buskers like that. My fingers produced the tunes with little difficulty. As usual I played some cittern and some mandolin. My comrade played guitar and pennywhistle. I tried out a new group of tunes without much faltering. All told, it was a lot of fun. The crowd was indeed large and quite generous on the way in to the game. I credit that to our awesomeness. Did you buy that? No? Well, we ARE awesome but it’s probably more the Christmas spirit at work. Also, the Oilers are finally having a season that isn’t terrible. It turns out that they lost the game and our revenues were predictably diminished for the outgoing crowd. One of the transit cops threw some money in the hat. I like it when that happens. Those folks end up hearing us play for several hours over the course of a event so I’m always happy when they like the music.  As often happens, while chucking some coins into the hat one person complimented us and also complained about how bad the drummer is who busks outside using plastic buckets as his instrument. We hear that a lot. Still, he makes enough for it to be worth his while.

There were a few non musical incidents of note.  On the incoming crowd a teen walked past who had probably been in a fight. His hand was covered in blood and he had a cut over his eye. He went around the corner towards the area the transit cops were and some time later returned with a bandaged hand. This took a relatively short time so I guess he was OK and security didn’t feel the need to detain him.

On the outgoing crowd we were just starting to play when a young woman came past yelling at a man.  He left and she sat down on the floor and began sobbing. At this point, the game wasn’t over yet so the corridor was empty and echoing. I let the happy tune I was playing trail into silence. It didn’t seem appropriate. I fidgeted  with my tuner for a few moments and debated going over to her and asking if she needed help. Would she want a scruffy busker weirdo bothering her? I  had just  decided to go over when she collected herself, took out her cell phone and walked off texting furiously. When busking one will often see these mysterious little glimpses of other people’s lives and almost certainly never learn the  whole story.

On a more positive note, one couple stopped and instead of giving us coins they gave us an Oilers’ blanket. In the din of the crowd I couldn’t quite hear what either of them said other than the guy telling me to take good care of the blanket. I agreed to do so. Over the years, we have received some odd textile items in lieu of cash. Most notably (on different occasions)  a pair of pants, a hooded sweatshirt, and…a bra.

Busking Loot!


8 thoughts on “The Busking Report: December 2011

    • There aren’t many cittern busking. I should specify that it is a contemporary cittern. I’d love to have one of the renaissance type, though. I have an old instrument that I want to set up for playing English Guitar material but I have to lay my hands on some appropriate strings. I am told that harpsichord strings work.

      The venue has a tiled floor and concrete walls so there is lot of reverb. However, the geometry of the space makes for lots of weird overlapping echoes if one is listening from a distance.


    • Well, ensembles can busk too. However, the money gets divided more ways. I don’t busk solo anymore as I don’t find it much fun. If my friend can’t busk with me I will not usually bother.


  1. I found the bra particularly useful. It was a black push up with sparkles, and I wore it out. Those things are expensive, you know. Feel a bit bad about turning the trophy into rags, though… Not many ppl get sexy underwear tossed at them…


  2. I can only imagine the snippets of peoples’ lives you come across. The comedian Lewis Black tells a joke about a woman he overheard saying, “If it weren’t for my horse, I’d never have spent that year in college.” The woman leaves before he can ask her what she was talking about and now he must go through the rest of his life trying to understand that incomprehensible sentence!


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