Freight and Salvage Last Night

Busking total: $5.00  $4977.10 to go.

The freight is a very welcoming place. I met a bunch of the regulars last night. I am definitely coming back, for the companionship, and the music.  One set of them is doing a show there on August 30th. I heard two of them separately last night, and they are well worth seeing. Depending on when my seed group leaves for the Highland Games, I’ll be there myself.

The other serious standout was a little girl named Kaya Stuart who I hope has a long and wonderful career ahead of her. She did a song called “Friendship,” accompanying herself on the piano. She sounded a whole lot older than 7 years old. I felt like I was hearing someone who will soon be recorded, or should be.

I stayed till the end of the show, and had a nailbiting ride home when I realized I’d left my lights on the windowsill. Worth it in every way, at least the streets are quiet on a Tuesday night.

The Freight has a deal going with ConcertWindow where for $3 you can see the show via computer. Don’t know how exactly this works, since I’ve been at the show the last two weeks, but it looks like it’s worth checking out. De Temps Antan is playing tonight, and I bought a single pass to see how it is, as I love Quebecois music and can’t go on down there tonight. Have to work tomorrow, and it takes an hour to get home on transit/bike. This would be a great way to see shows at a bargain price.

Didn’t busk ye…

Didn’t busk yesterday. I had no clean clothes, and my arm was killing me. I have to build in some time for basic maintenance, and the Lorin Swap is not only unpaid, it takes up most of my Sunday.

So I took yesterday to have a long look around my life and figure out a few things. Last week was wonderful. I was on vacation and all I had to do was busk, blog and cook/do dishes. Adding my job back into the mix changed things. And I discovered a very hard fact. I am not healed. Playing the bodhran brings the injury right back. A week of daily playing, even with a daily yoga practice, combined with work, showed me a hard limit.

Will three days a week be possible? Don’t know. But I’m not giving up. Arnica is a marvelous thing, and I have a great acupuncturist. I can also learn more a capella stuff and take the bodhran out of a couple of songs that can go either way. I can also limit my computer time and cut the little devices out as much as possible. The iPod and the texting on the phone are killers. If I read paper books, the temptation to use those things will not be as great.

I did get a few gear things done over Friday and Monday. My sign is blocked out. I just have to trace and paint it now. My old busking setup looked like this:



In the BART station I was just setting my bodhran case out for people to put money in. It worked, but it lacked something. And last week a kid tried to grab the money and run. I stopped him before he got properly started, but BART is not Faire and I need a better setup. Bard in a Box doesn’t really work any more, as I’m not selling tapes–who even has a cassette player any more? I don’t want to paint out the old sign, though. So I began by covering it:




I’ll be painting Busking my way to Ireland on it, with the help of my wonderful and artistic partner, who painted the horn last time and is going to xerox the mockup I made tonight. A bit of time and some carbon paper and I’ll have something.

So off to catch the lunch crowd at Montgomery BART, and then to downtown Berkeley BART or wherever I can find a spot and the Open Mic at the Freight tonight.



On My Way

Best moment of the day: the Pagan woman who hung around all the way through me singing King Henry and then came up to me to flash her pentagram. And we had a great talk about mythology. That was the kind of thing that happened a lot at Faire, and I have really missed it.

It is actually possible for me to do this. The Universe will provide, provided I put in the time. I played for about an hour at Berkeley BART and I made $11.50. I figure to get to Ireland and back, stay in hostels or campgrounds, hitting the places I need to, take the sail/rail to England and back to Ireland, and maybe squeeze in a few extras, I’ll need about $5000. If I can consistently make $10/hour, that’s about 500 hours of singing.

I’m planning on Tuesdays for busking and open mike at this point, and I don’t plan on only doing an hour a day. Today I did stupid things because it’s been so long since I’ve been on the street. I know better than to try and sing above ambient noise–school groups and trains, in particular. I stopped when my throat started to warn me and my arm and neck started to flare up. Knowing when to stop is a big part of this. I’m fine today, and able to go out again. Ignoring those signals last summer cost me my job. I was able to compensate a bit yesterday by alternating straight a capella with drum and voice, and I was still getting tipped. When I got home, I lay down, put my busking playlist on iTunes and learned/remembered I knew new material.

Worst case, if I played only an hour a day on Mondays and Tuesdays, that would be 100 hours a year right there. That makes it doable in a little over two years. Other opportunities will also present themselves and probably cut that time. Adding a CD to the busking will certainly help, and I’ll do so as soon as I’ve gotten enough material together. Plus I have the internet, a resource that wasn’t available to me before. If you didn’t get a tape from me at a Faire, you never heard of me. I remember finding out that one of my fans had left a copy of my tape in Ireland. I was ecstastic to even think of my music having gotten that far!

So I’m $11.50 up, $4988.50 to go.

Working At Music


Before last night, I hadn’t been to the Freight and Salvage since they’d moved. The new space is inviting, comfortable, and the energy in there had me reaching for my notebook with the beginnings of my next song in it as I was waiting for the show to begin. It didn’t hurt that their coffee is great, either.

I went to check out the open mike that’s held there on Tuesdays. Since the only open mike I’ve ever been to was held at a bar in Mystic Seaport, and I was drunk when I performed, I decided to go about this one in more professional fashion.

Mystic was actually serendipitous. It was my first sailing trip, aboard the Brig Niagara and the last stop before I left the ship was the sea music festival at Mystic Seaport. It was a nice bonus, but I’d come to sail in square rig, I didn’t really care where we ended up. We all went down to the bar and one of my shipmates signed me up, unbeknownst to me, since I’d been singing the whole trip anyway. I ended up singing after Tom Lewis, a guy I had been watching on the stage all weekend. Total surprise on all counts, and though it turned out fine, it wasn’t exactly fun at the time, and it’s no way to make a living.

I needn’t have been so cautious last night. The Freight is a great place to sing, and there was a lot of great music to be heard. The night started out with a really kick-ass ukelele player, and there was also a duo doing original showtunes that really blew me away. They did one song called “Can’t say ‘I do'” that was just incredible. I’m in a same sex relationship, and while the lavender picket fence holds zero appeal for me, that song made me cry. Not bad for $6.50. I bought an advance ticket for next week before I left. Next time the drum goes with me.

Today I’m off to stand in the street. Or wherever looks good. I never get to go to the Wednesday Market at Civic Center in San Francisco but since I’m off this week it seems a good place to start.

Songs That Must Be Sung, Part 1 of 3

This trip has been growing for years. There are things to be done and songs to be sung that have to happen in Ireland, England and Scotland. I don’t expect to get to all of them this time, but there are a few biggies that absolutely have to happen. There are three of my songs in particular that have to be sung this time. The first one is The Pangs of Macha.

Back in college, I took a Celtic literature course. It was the most important course I ever took. My instructor let me write a song for my final project, based on one of the pieces we read. I chose one of the pre-tales from Kinsella’s translation of the Tain. He included a selection of stories that an Irish person of the time would have known, and which made the tale more intelligible to people of our time. It explained the reason why Cuchulain was facing Medb’s army alone.

I chose it for a variety of reasons. First, before that class, I hadn’t known who Macha was, beyond a vague awareness that she was a goddess. I’d known of the Cu since childhood. I felt her story needed to be told. I also knew what it felt like to be wronged by the men of Ulster, a story best forgotten now. I also was struck by the fact that of all the provinces of Ireland, Ulster was the one that was still not free, torn by violence. It was as if Macha’s curse was still operating, her lessons not yet learned. So I told that story, fully, leaving nothing out, adding nothing, from the only version I had that I felt was trustworthy.

I knew when I wrote it that someday I would sing it at Emain Macha. So I need to go to Navan Fort in Armagh (Ard Macha?) and do so.

Busking My Way To Ireland

I’m going to be 50 on the Winter Solstice. I’ve spent my whole life on the West Coast of the United States, specifically in the Bay Area. This really is an amazing place to live, and I applaud my parents’ good taste in choosing to settle here (they came from Ohio originally). However, I’ve never been off this continent, unless you count the fact that I have been offshore and just out of sight of land on both coasts. Both trips were in tallships and I remember vividly being aloft off the Atlantic braced against the swell furling t’gallants. On the West Coast I remember the three members of our watch tacking the Lady Washington late at night without having to wake anyone else. It took a bit of time, but we felt like giants when we were done. I wouldn’t trade either of those experiences for anything, but the fact is, I’ve never been to any other country other than Canada.

Lest this turn into a pity party, I have a plan, and what Chris Guillebeau recently called a Big Thing on his blog, The Art Of Non Conformity. I thank him for the inspiration, and all the concrete advice he gives out for free on his site, as well as his excellent book, The $100 Startup, which is a great read.

The germ of my idea is this: I will busk my way to Ireland, which is a place I have always wanted to go. Every penny that comes from my music goes in the fund to do this. My drum will take me places my salary can’t.

Now I know it will take me centuries to pass the hat for enough money to buy a plane ticket. But I also know that adventures often begin small. If I set out my hat, start singing, and say yes to every good idea that comes to me, I’ll get there, probably sooner than I think. Along the way, I’ll get a lot better at my craft, and there are other things besides busking that I already plan on doing. I have two albums half written that will grow as I stand in the BART station or on that sidewalk. Busking is like fertilizer, I have always known that. It is the greatest teacher there is.

So for now I’ll pack up my drum and my produce and head for the crop swap. I’ll be playing on the corner of Adeline and Alcatraz in Berkeley in about 2 hours. And I’ll post some more details on why I want to go, and what I plan to do when I get there in the next few days. If you are intrigued by this idea, and find my journey entertaining, please spread the word. I need as many eyes and ears as possible on this blog to make this work. Thanks for reading this far, and may your road be as much fun as mine is going to be!