Thursday, April 30, 2015

Regarding Bostons Busking Kerfuffle


Faneuil Hall/ Quincy Market has been a busking institution for over 50 years, one of the few American venues.

The latest development is that management want amps down to round 70 decibel level.
A $2500 yearly fee
One stock money line shared and parroted by every performer.

This is both a gambit and a bait and switch. It's been proven in court a number of times I believe that in America it's illegal to charge for busking permits. 

But a Golden Goose is a Golden Goose and freedom of speech means buskers have to let the psychiatrically impaired rant about Brian of Nazareth or beat a cows skull with a succession of pre-frozen squirrels or simply stand on the pitch for 30 mins grinning as they remember their last firm bowel movement. 
That's what Disney and Rocky Balboa enshrined when they wrote the constitution. 

The corporate pros don't like this and the performance pros don't like it either. 
The bait and switch kicks in the moment fees of any sort are applied because at this point, whatever excuse is used it can be very quickly established that performers are performance vendors and as such no better or worse that the other vendors with actual tangibles rather than hooks, stock lines and finale sinkers. 
You are either individuals expressing yourselves in public as the law permits or you are engaged in business and the moment you cough up a fee you are implicitly agreeing that it takes money to make money and lose all those privileges you need to continue the only argument you have. 

The gambit here is pretty straightforward. The $2500 is an initial negotiation position. 
In the wine and coke world of the third tier real estate management world where you have to either throw someone off your balcony who you hadn't previously paid for sex or get a series of articles published about your laughable half-brain and it's interactions with the actual world the ideal way to manage is to use a big broom. 
$2500 is a big broom. 

Fact of the matter is $2500/ $1000/ $500 will leave one or two or three still standing. Those people will bargain the price down, and then move onto the next item on the agenda which is the mind-meltingly absurd idea that everyone use the same cloned hatline like imperial performance stormtroopers some corporate bedwetter surrounded by yes-men and his drug problem thunk up between the inhale and wiping his nose. 
Guy's a genius, a legend in his own bathroom. 
Why not just automate performance? 

So that indicates that some of the hatlines are getting annoying, like bilking annoying, just as the amplification thing indicates the noise levels are getting annoying. 

As much as performers at these high end semi-corporate venues think they can manage each other, they can't, they have no authority, they lean on security who lean on whatever the problem is. 
There are exceptions but in most cases an unregulated envirionment degrades and convulses in a cycle. 
This is obviously a convulsion and the only way to deal is to manage the convulsion. 
The management have gone for an adversarial position. As templated and unimaginative as a third of the street shows that annoy them. 

Far better to embrace the street element and produce a festival that gives locals something to aspire to or copy. 
From our perspective the sad truth is you can't stand on principle if you've given them up for short cash and convenience and from the corps perspective the best of us are a unique feature but outnumbered by selfish shitheads with amps and bad attitudes. 
and so it goes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Feet on the Street: The Grounded People

 Sometimes I see a hedge that's been cut back. It only takes a couple of days before it flowers [here in the tropics]

The Flowers remind me of street theatre, good luck killing a convention older than the Romans.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Dubai, Day Two, Post three, Peer groups.

The prime reason I went to Dubai was to reconnect.

The gig itself had an alarming number of red flags, new market, no contract, first additional request asking if I could fly myself there, payment being 10-15 days after the gig.

Normally most of these, even in isolation, would be enough for me not to bother.
I'll admit I'm a career masochist. I'm proud of my mind melting gigs inflicted from within and without, however variety is key and your ideal trainwreck of a gig should catch you somewhat by surprise rather than being a series of obvious guillotines strewn in your path.

What countered all these misgivings were my peers who all spoke well of the company. Peers are powerful that way.

We are all tribal Apes, street performers form short-term tribes for cash and fee and various over-lapping peer groups form with the performers themselves

Rugged individualism is admired but without social skills no tribe will take you. You offer them nothing.

My peers have all failed more than your average person.
You don't get a reality-manipulating wrinkle-exploiting street show out of a box.
It takes a thousand shows, each containing mistakes made and lessons learnt.
Mistakes that teach us we're at best 49% full of shit rather than the average 51%
Additionally shared pitches and shared focus let you learn via others mistakes as well as your own.
Leaving some of us happy with our success but mindful that ignorance was a constant companion and that life was ongoing.
Man were we ever merciless towards the brittle though. Ego annihilation was the way we shook hands.

Nothing eclipses the rush of bathing in applause.
The best of us recognised that didn't mean much other, with certain tricks, you could reproduce that effect.
The worst of us equated that with a missing childhood nipple and made camp upon that tit to dispense wisdom.
Me? I'm a vacillator, I aspire to be half full of myself.

So end of day three there was a get together, three festivals, three casts, one Irish pub.
Todd Various, Windyman, Jay of the Jay-Show, Gazzo, the Atari show dude from Argentina and myself got there first. Just a knack we have coupled with innate social enthusiam I guess. I bought the first round, Atari didn't care what i chose so I got him a cider, lesson learned, a teachable moment. Know what you want.

The anecdotal olympics began. We joined tables together on the astroturf, there were increasing numbers of us, a pond and a Duck.
I met some new people who's names I've forgotton but who's faces I remember, Stuart, the producer arrived earlyish with his wife and they hung for a modicum before presumably retiring to whatever  lavish batcave middle eastern clients afforded them. [Jesus martin, be nice, BE NICE]

Flying Dutchmen arrived, as did Gavin Hay and the subterraneally droll Kim Potter who's dry wit is so powerful he has to avoid produce sections at supermarkets lest he dehydrate things via proximity.
Chris Lynam, the pent-up-rage-Clown was there, he's mellow in real life. Silver turned up and that was a treat because we worked out we hadn't seen each other in 23 years, [which is just over three generations in clown-years] I gave him a memory he'd forgotten which is always satisfying. Andrew Elliott appeared out of no-where. We had both been weary philosophers decades ago and it was pleasing to see we'd each survived and grown more comfortably into ourselves.

It didn't get messy, it was just a bunch of guys and gals at a bar who'd worked out making your own reality was more fun that renting.
Jovial, pleasant, however this evening was the reason I'd taken the gig and my heart soared like a duck. That's a metaphor, the actual duck was still there and represented if anything insomnia and entitlement and total lack of flying and so was kinda useless.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nick Drake - Fly

 Exceptionally talented and little known

Please give me a second grace
Please give me a second face
I've fallen far down the first time around
Now I just sit on the ground in your way

Now if it's time for recompense for what's done
Come, come sit down on the fence in the sun
And the clouds will roll by and we'll never deny
It's really too hard for to fly

Please tell me your second name
Please play me your second game
I've fallen so far for the people you are
I just need your star for a day

So come, come ride in my street-car by the bay
For now I must know how fine you are in your way
And the sea sure as I but she won't need to cry
For it's really too hard for to fly

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

52nd Birthday of me.

In an hour and twelve minutes I'll be 52.
Who would have thunk.
Having spent my life as an extended adolescent i had no idea I'd make it this far. I longed for some eclectic premature passing that relieved me and inflicted others. I didn't want to be a passive aggressive asshole but recognised it suited me.
A week ago I was jetlagged and homeless between gig A and gig B, which sounds exciting but isn't.
I also ran out of puff somewhere between 46 and 51 and sheltered in the only place that would take me, a rehab center, because while I wanted simply to die, to cease existing, something drove me to seek a solution that involved processing oxygen and perhaps understanding myself better.
So I stopped being curled up in a lava tube in Hawaii with my back to the world trying to starve to death and staggered back into life.
I rescued myself, i went through the hoops hopeless people are allowed and got certified as a poly drug abuser and put into care.
I lived with ex addicts and ex prisoners for two years and then, because I'm fucking special and it's a curse i can barely manage I was employed at the same place to help others.
All this time I ignored all my friends and family. I wasn't sure whether I was technically dead or not.
One person, out of left field, unbidden befriended me. My response was to do that thing I'm gifted with. To expose them and their motivations to themselves. They left me alone for six months. After that we've spoken very day the last 5 years and I now owe them everything.
Because I'm back in the mix. I know what I am and I know who I am and if the world and I don't get on then it's nothing I haven't dealt with already.
It's now 17 minutes before my birthday and in 17 minutes I'm going to dive into the pool and re-emerge a 52 year old. The world is just going to have to deal with that.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dubai- Day two

Jet-lag has bled out. For me it's a three day gig but for most it's approaching the end of a 10 day gig so their rhythm given first shows are late afternoon consists of day adventures, indoor skiing, beaches, highest building venturing, meandering generally.

Experience has taught me that for the first few days in a foreign culture I need to stay quiet and bleed out that invisible green radiation only apparent to vendors, taxi drivers, pimps and pickpockets.

It's hot but meh, about as hot as the coast of the tropical island I live on. [Which is why I live at altitude] and about as hot as Perth in summer so no real drama there.

Only having three days I give up on the touristy aspect and focus on the matter at hand.

Not so much 'How do I construct shows in a marbled retailed colosseum?"

more  " what's the most efficient way to fulfil the clients unspoken brief."

Beginning in Japan, then later China and now the economically exploding middle east, Clowns and Variety performers with a street bent are used in newly constructed commercial ventures as talismans, social fabric softeners and disposable income laxatives to provide morphing generations safer passage between their times passed, where every cent was devoted to the basics in life, to their new condition where non essential spending is encouraged and the purchase of social signifiers and do-dads replaces the prior focuses of three square meals and the education of ones children.

Corporate heads know and bank big on 'quality' being subjective. That's why marketing is the carotid artery of commerce and why it's accepted as reasonable that the $200 tshirt is legitimately $190 more valuable than it's $10 cousin.

Clowns have little to do with this particular hypnotism, we are used at a later stage, our commercial function is to engender corporate loyalty. The people laugh, the people smile, the people get happy memories.......and the people return. The returning is our function and our worth.

So given I'm so articulate one one hand and so professionally mute on the other and given I've refused to be framed into doing 'shows' like an obedient 21st century vaudvillian and given my 11ft reality is a thing unto itself I enjoy a certain freedom. I'm trusted to simply 'do what I do.'

So by day two I'd figured roving and being at atmospheric fixture was one efficient aspect of my function and posing for between 100-150 photos with customers in the mall was the other.

So that's what I did.

I did a tiny bit of corner work, the basis for my street show, but just in passing and just to see if it had potential to be developed. It did but I'd need longer than three days to play with that and still be effective at the other stuff.

Day one I was depressed, combo of jet lag, the constant irritation of concrete dust in the green room and the vague disgust I have for my profession.
But day two I wasn't the least suicidal.

I had been warned that there were young entitled unsupervised brats who knew nothing but bullydom about the place. They were distinct from the sugar saturated brats that are an international fixture, [usually peaking at 4-7pm--the sugar saturation zone as it's known]
No these guys were just brittle young assholes I was told.

I met one on my third set on my second day.
I entered the mall and he swaggered in a belligerent bee-line towards me.
He was big for his age, more fat than muscle and he gave me his best approximation of a dead-eyed stare as he invaded my space.
I stopped, I've been on pegs 30 years now, I can stand still.
The fact that this little shit DARED to try and intimidate me filled me with a sudden rage the strength of a thousand dieing suns. His miniscule imagination would implode with the weight contained in the variety of ways I could fuck him up in that moment.
He sensed something in my contemptuous stare and broke contact and I turned my back on him, compounding my dismissal of him as a threat and walked onto an escalator, upping the stakes, making myself vulnerable but I'd already broken him.

However in reflecting and amplifying his hateful arrogance I had to spend the next three minutes bleeding out his essence, else I became him, which I found interesting.

That was day 2, It contained a social side which came after and I'll leave for the next post.

Advice from producer to festival applicants.

Via David Aikins Buskers hall of fame site.

Kelly Shea writes a piece on some basic rules of thumb.