Gillian Bourazak performs two songs, deals with mega-creeper

By the time this photo was taken, the only weird guy still annoying Gillian Bourazak was me.
Gillian Bourazak was one of the first half-dozen buskers I recorded for the Busk Break project, and her two videos are also one of the worst missed opportunities in the entire series. She has a solid voice and a keen songwriting sense, two things I utterly failed to capture in the one opportunity I had to record her busking. The first video makes it seem even worse, as she’s distracted mid-song by one of the biggest dickheads I’ve encountered in several years of these field recordings.

First things first: This video is flawed because I was mind-blowingly incompetent. The early Busk Break videos were riddled with technical problems caused by my total ineptitude with a camera, audio recorder and editing software. In this case, you’ll notice two major problems, the grainy video and the distorted sound. Because I was so unfamiliar with the camera I was using (the still-awesome Kodak zi8), I had it set at the lowest-possible resolution, resulting in a grainy video that only looks slightly better now thanks to some post-production trickery. The sound, meanwhile, has that blown-out distortion that many of you audio engineers and home studio geeks will recognize instantly as running a hot headphone-level cable into a jack set for mic sound. In non-nerd terms, this means that so much signal is coming through the microphone jack that it’s overwhelming the poor camera’s audio input, and sounds terrible as a result. And, mind you, this is after going in and doing what I could to reduce the distortion.

Even in spite of that, the song is fairly good.

The other thing I have to address is the guy who appears at around 2:50 into the song. He’s definitely creeping the poor girl out, but she handles it fine. What you don’t see is that happened after the video fades to black. He starts telling Bourazak that she doesn’t need to know his name because he’s a worthless person (fair enough), and then proceeds to try to get all gropey on her while telling her what an awful, drunk failure he is. He was most likely suffering from some larger mental health problem, but clearly not sober on top of that. She was clearly becoming more uncomfortable the more he talked at her, and before long I realized she was actually getting scared. It ended with me doing something I’ve only done a few times in my life, getting in the guy’s face and telling him he could either leave or deal with me. He complained a little, but even though I’m far from a tough guy, he seemed to realize quickly that I was perfectly willing to back it up, and he soon meandered off in search of another young woman to molest. Once he was gone, Bourazak was genuinely relieved, and thanked me profusely for running the creeper off.

Which makes it all the more irritating to me that these videos didn’t turn out well. I went from feeling all awesome and alpha male to absolutely stupid as soon as I got the video imported into the ancient version of iMovie I was using at the time. Sadly, it would take another several recording sessions to figure out what I was actually doing wrong with the mic cable, and nearly six months before I began using the higher resolution settings on the camera. (Although I can at least partially blame that one on having an older Mac that couldn’t handle HD video.)

Even with it’s myriad flaws, I’m glad to have the chance to present better versions of these recordings than the ones that are currently floating around on YouTube on my old user account for which I have long lost the login information. Although I’m no audio wizard, the sound quality is much less bad than it was. The video, meanwhile, is compressed at a reasonable rate this time. Not great, but far less bad than what was out there before. And until I run across Gillian Bourazak busking again (it’s been two years, so odds are good that she’s moved on to things less likely to attract the unmedicated insane to her), this is the best document we’re going to have of her music in this time and place.


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Steve Shanafelt

Steve Shanafelt used to think he was a writer. Lots of other people thought he was a very good one, and they paid him to write everything from news articles to erotic comic books. Then, a few years ago, he started to realize that writing was just one very tiny piece of the puzzle. He started recording podcasts, producing field recordings of busking musicians, making short video series and learning how to make websites. Along the way, he learned lots of ways not to manage businesses and how to promote those businesses online. Now, people pay him surprisingly large sums of money to show them some of the things he's picked up.