6/25 Gorham Grind, Main St. Gorham 10am-1pm
6/27 Champion’s Sports Bar, Travis James Humphrey hosts, 9pm, Biddeford
6/29 Portland Farmer’s Market, Monument Square, sometime between 9am and 2pm
7/7 Dogfish Cafe, Free St. Portland, 8 to 11pm
7/13 Longfellow Arts Center, Maine Songwriters Association showcase, 7pm
7/15 Gritty’s Freeport, 8pm
7/16 Yarmouth Clam Festival, 4:30
One of the things I love the most about Mexico is that there is music in the streets all the time. From people practicing their favorite American rock tunes in their living rooms with the windows open, to mariachis, strolling trova singers, to jazz, to banda bands, to those god awful party bands with all the horns that don’t actually know any of the songs they are playing, or for that matter how to play their instruments.
Some of the best and worst experiences I’ve had coming back to Maine have been as a street musician. For the first time ever, I have enough gigs (plus playing on the street most days since I have no prospect of work in Maine at the moment) that I am feeling a little burn out. I don’t want to sing any of the songs I know, but then I do one particularly well and the feeling subsides. I had the chance to participate in the 4th annual Music in the Square in Eliot Square Cambridge last weekend. For me, the event was ruined by weather, another event happening that drowned out our busking style festival, and a general feeling of malaise and the creating music is hardly ever worth it.
One event that has been worth it is playing in the Portland Farmer’s Market in monument square. This week I snuck in after a trio of tuba, banjo, and clarinet. They are a professional group that has held the same spot on Wednesdays for years. Everyone respects their time and their location, and they have created an institution of free, impromptu music. The banjo player stuck around as I started to play for a bit. He listened thoughtfully, picked up one of my cards, and said, “That, young lady, is some quality work. Not that it’s mine to give, but you have my official permission to use this spot.”
Working through gigs that have no monitors so the hired-hand bass player who was counting on hearing the changes is desperately trying to watch my left hand, trying to wrack my brain for one more fast song to sing over the din of young drunk folks who only want to hear Old Crow Medicine Show covers and don’t know who Neil Young is, and generally feeling like the drunk version of Bad Blake, that one comment from a respected musician can be enough to hold onto for a little while.
Now back to busking. I was busking down by the Casco Bay Lines last week, and a man who clearly didn’t listen to anything I sang, distantly reached into his pocket to throw some change in the tip jar without slowing down or looking in my general direction. One thing that most real street musicians are not, are beggars. Although the money is a necessary and motivational part to continue making music, people stopping to enjoy, a smile, and a compliment are equally appreciated. I think that people are afraid if they stop, they are going to be obligated to donate money, at least for me, that is definitely not the case. Although it is highly appreciated, the point is to create an atmosphere. To expose people to new music, and hopefully find a few people that connect to my version of the art.
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