Monday, May 27, 2013

Hair Loss.

Horse hair. I've done it again. This time I've newly embaldened my second favorite bow by smacking it against the fingerboard and getting all rhythmic. It's a stupid bloody thing to do and made me the princely sum of 50p. To be honest the bloke looked concerned as he dropped it into my case, he was probably just coming over to check I wasn't having an episode. I went back to folk and only then I noticed the hair flapping like fetlocks either flank of my fiddle. About £15 worth lost in a moment. 

That was Sunday, beneath Green Park. I tried both spots. Green Park 1 has lovely acoustics. I think spots that are in Jubilee line tunnels generally do. Green Park 2 was horrible. This is the one just before you enter or leave the Piccadilly Line. The people were lovely and seemed to like the music, but my arm started complaining after about 15 minutes because the sound wasn't forgiving. I packed it in after an hour and strolled through Green Park where some sort of running race had taken place. The last time I busked above ground in that part of London was around the Olympics. They weren't much fun to busk.

Near the beginning of the Olympics I had a busk outside Brompton Road Station over the road from the Earls Court Exhibition Centre where the volley ball was being done. I wasn't going to let armed coppers stop me. Unless they came over and asked me to stop, then I'd let them stop me. Nothing happened, but my fiddle sounded ropey because it was early in the morning and I hadn't dropped any of my own cash in my case. Twenty minutes later there was still no cash in my case. My mistake was to focus on the guns when I should have been focusing on the sunshine. I relocated to just in front of the station, between the doors. A swift £7.50 later I'm moved on by a copper. They only like busking when it's pro bono. 

I should stick to playing the theme from The Pink Panther. My top e flat is too flat though, except for when it's too sharp. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

I've Gone Underground (La la la la).

My new god may just be the busking hotline. This is the number you call to get your slots when you're a licensed busker.

The name's Brown, Montmarcey Brown, licensed to busk.

It's a whole different kettle of fish when you're busking beneath the streets in lovely echoey tunnels. I've got a good bow that I liked using, but my style is heavy on hair so it went bald and I haven't had the cash to rehair it. Back in the case now thanks to the lovely echoey tunnels beneath London. Not quite bald, getting there swiftly. Makes a lovely noise when I smack it against the fingerboard. This is a very expensive technique though, and people don't throw cash when I do it, so it's not one I should pursue often. The trouble is that I really like the noise it makes so I'll end up doing it. Bow stroke, then smack bow on fingerboard then another bow stroke (Maybe a different double stopped chord this time.) and before I know it I've got carried away and wiped out on a bum note with horse hair dangling accusingly from my bow. 

I looked up and there stood what looked like a violin teacher sadly shaking her head. She walked on. 

The people pass in some stations only when a train has emptied itself onto a platform that feeds your allocated bit of tunnel. Fantastic for improvising when no one's about. The money comes steadily. My big trick above ground has always been to try and get people dancing. Kids, generally are the easiest to get to dance. I often worry that I've struck upon some sort of pester power when their parents stop to watch their kids boogie, then feel compelled to reach into their pockets. Drunk people are good too. Often the most confrontational ones are subsequently the most generous. On the tube it seems more controlled, people walk with rhythm and purpose. My big trick now is to play something that matches the general pulse of people walking past. 

The sound though, it's addictive. What other musicians get to experiment with a varied set of acoustics on a daily basis. Sound engineers get to play about with them in their headphones, but tunnels are really interesting. On the underground they fill and empty with bodies really quickly. If I'm playing a pub with a band we always have to turn our instruments up as the pub fills, ambient noise is created by humans and the mass of their bodies dampens sound waves. The same is true on the tube, one second the noise is reverberating beautifully, the next it's lost all of it's body and tone to the feet stomping past.

Two spots I've played so far don't suffer from this problem. The first exit from Tottenham Court Road Station and the patch before you leave Hammersmith on your way to the exit with the statue. Tottenham court road is so echoey that I'm sure the individual notes get muddled up at points and entirely different tunes to the ones I'm playing emerge. 

Anyway, I've got to go, it's raining and I need to ring the busking hotline.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Portobello Market.

I started out in High Street Kensington, but was swiftly moved on by a cop. It was too sunny to argue, but we both agreed that it was very silly indeed that he was moving me on. I managed to give him a short lesson on acoustics and the value of an awning when fiddling. 

So I went to Portobello Market and ended up busking next to a dustbin for about 45 minutes. I made about £20, but I didn't like the acoustics so I wandered about for a bit and ended up next to the entrance of Ladbrook Grove Underground where I made £1.50 and started to sound a bit less hungover so I headed back into the market where I stumbled across this bloke....

He was packing up, so I took his spot. I'd busked it in similar circumstances two years earlier and concluded that it was not a good spot to busk. Similar weather, similar amount of cherry tree petals having fallen...etc. I made £4 last time round. This time I made £40. Busking's a funny old game.

Then this woman....

gave me a fiver. She's got a live gig coming up, but she didn't give away any clues as to where or when it was taking place.