THROUGH THE HAZE | THE BLUES OF BUSKING

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By Marty Gleason | Photo Alan Stanton via

 

It was Saturday. The rain wasn’t yet falling but would later, getting my beautiful second-hand saxophone wet and making me worry about rust – the ultimate triumph of nature and proof that taking it to the streets is ultimately overrated.

What are the streets going to provide anyway? Revolution? Egypt’s triumph of the masses has become a little convoluted. Affirmation? Unlikely. Definitely not comfort. People are only out in the streets because they’re trying to get from point A to B. The journey is uncomfortable and destination is everything. That’s how it always appeared to me too, until my girlfriend told me that the journey is really the meaning, and the destination is just a promise to keep us going.

The journey is really the meaning, and the destination is just a promise to keep us going…”

Busking either makes me very happy or very unhappy. One can either find a comfortable and spacious place to play in the CBD, resulting in no money, or hustle where people congregate and be told to piss off by business owners and other buskers. The council restrictions seem to read as follows: “You are not allowed to play anywhere fun. Or practical.”

So, why do it? Maybe some affirmation and, if you’re lucky, a bit of money. Besides it’s better than playing for nobody in my bedroom. That is probably the order of the benefits, unless you’re a dude with a guitar who has it and knows how to rock the casbah. They make cash in colourful notes. Others just make a few coins. Or nothing. If you fancy yourself as a lost soul playing alone under a bridge – beware of trolls.

I’ve come to hate Swanston Street, from a busking and aesthetic perspective, but there are few alternatives and Bourke Street is for the semi-pros. Business people don’t care about noisy quasi-vagrants, so that eliminates  the CBD on the westside.

The best are people who take a film of me playing on their phones, or want to take their picture with me. To them I’m not a nobody – I’m a Melbourne icon!”

Sometimes I get two or three fans. People seem less inhibited to ask directions from me. What do you know, I’m a fixture. The best are people who take a film of me playing on their phones, or want to take their picture with me. To them I’m not a nobody – I’m a Melbourne icon! Albeit, briefly. I couldn’t care less if those people give me money. They are giving me something else, something better. But money makes the world go round too.

I have my staple songs but tire of them rapidly. I know what works for sax – no songs with repetitive notes, or that are too slow and indistinct. I read sheet music like a grade prep learning to read, all pauses and squinting, so it all has to be in my head. Occasionally I connect and a couple of people tell me I’m awesome. Yeah, I knew already. Oh, you mean at sax?

Sometimes I am not on, I make many mistakes and have to smother the rising humiliation. I’ve already scattered some pre-coins into my box to not look so pathetic. Many people look not at me but into my box, wondering if they should quit their own day jobs. Of course they should, but for unrelated reasons.

 

 

Marty Gleason is a fan of sports, languages and South America. He is forever trying to convince people that the suits haven’t definitively won the game just yet, although he does on occasion wear a suit.

 

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