Local busker Aaron Basskin performs his version of a song almost everyone in the English-speaking world can at least hum along to: “If I Only Had a Brain” by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, written for the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz. Continue reading Aaron Basskin covers “If I Only Had a Brain”
At first listen you might not think much of this ditty by the Walhalla, SC,-based busker known simply as Doc. It’s certainly a well-performed tune, and clearly there’s passion behind this original composition, but something is obviously missing. That something is lyrics, and to appreciate the song in context, it helps to realize that Doc was bone tired from performing, and had completely strained his voice the previous day. He could barely talk, in fact, and was nursing herbal tea between songs in an attempt to soothe his vocal chords. Continue reading Doc may have strained his voice, but not his harmonica
For quite some time, Bill Page was one of a very small number of busking musicians on the streets of Knoxville, TN. It’s not a town that has traditionally been known as a busking hotspot, but over the last few years this has been changing, and Page is at least part of the reason why. Some of it is his music, to be sure, but just as importantly, it’s because of his defiance of anti-busking policies by the Knoxville police.
Back in the summer of 2010, Page was issued a citation for obstructing a 10-foot sidewalk with his performance. According to Page, the initial interaction with the police was more them telling him to move along, and him refusing to because busking isn’t illegal in Knoxville. The police said it was, and when it turns out they were wrong, Page says they “went fishing” for something to cite him with. Continue reading Knoxville’s Bill Page sings about trading places
Asheville’s Bele Chere festival is a swarming, sprawling mass of sights and sounds, and it’s easy for busking musicians to get drowned out in the chaos. But that didn’t stop Durham-based singer-songwriter Erin Brown from giving it her best.
Here, she performs her original tune “Killer Bee” at the corner of College St. and Lexington Ave. to a small crowd of festival goers. Continue reading Erin Brown performs “Killer Bee”
Sitting alone in front of the BB&T Building near Pack Square, his large backpack casually flopped to one side, Jackson Porter was quietly playing to himself when I met him. He wasn’t exactly busking, as he didn’t have a hat out or anything, but he wasn’t no-busking either. He told me he was taking some time off from school, and had been backpacking and hiking around, doing sections of the Appalachian Trail among other adventures. He’d only been playing the ukulele for a short time, but found that his guitar experience transferred pretty well.
Here, Porter improvs a little ditty, which he called “Living on the Streets.” Continue reading Jackson Porter improvs on the ukulele
What can you say about Atlanta’s genre-crossing band SolStar? How many bands can you think of that feature an electric violin and African dancing as key elements to the performance? Having only encountered the band by accident before, and having only a cellphone camera to capture the performance, it was a great turn of luck to run into them again.
Here, the five-piece version of the group performs to a packed crowd in front of the Woolworth Walk in Asheville, NC, during the 2012 Bele Chere street festival. Continue reading SolStar performs “Reaching Forward” at Bele Chere 2012
In most other cities, you’d never see musicians like clarinet player Wendi Loomis and guitarists Mario Piccolo and Sean Mabe busking for tips. You’d only see them performing in night clubs and upscale bars as the evening’s featured entertainment. And, as the Gypsy Swingers (or, in a slightly different arrangement as the Red Hot Sugar Babies), that’s generally how you’d encounter them as well. But the lure of playing for tips in the height of Asheville’s tourist season brings even the professionals out for a piece of the busking action.
Here, the trio performs “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me,” a jazzy, bluesy classic written nearly a century ago. Continue reading The Gypsy Swingers perform “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me”
You might not think that a half-dozen clean-shaven young men belting songs from the 1930s about cocaine addiction would be a natural crowd pleaser in a street festival, but you’d be wrong. Maybe it has something to do with their mashup addition of the thematically similar Old Crow Medicine Show tune “Tell It To Me,” which certainly seemed to please many in the audience.
Or maybe it was the brigade of mostly female fans, many of whom made it very clear that they were enjoying the testosterone on display at least as much as the music. That, or cocaine use is just a heckova lot more popular these days than I realized.
Here, the guys from Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos perform the American folk song “Take a Whiff on Me” (covered by everyone from Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie to The White Stripes and Old Crow Medicine Show) to the passersby during Bele Chere 2012. Continue reading Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos mashup “Take a Whiff on Me” and “Tell It To Me”
What do you get when you combine Asheville’s most high-profile busking boy band with the largest street festival in the region? You get a great performance, that’s what. Playing this medley of Irish tunes “The Foggy Dew” and “Come Out, Ye Black and Tans,” Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos had drawn a crowd to rival acts on the actual Bele Chere 2012 stages.
For those of you who aren’t aware of Asheville’s Bele Chere festival, it’s very much like many street festivals across the world. There are vendor booths, activities for kids, tons of food (with heavy emphasis on local eateries in recent years) and several stages of live music. Continue reading Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos perform an Irish medley at Bele Chere
It’s a rare enough thing to harness one’s passion and dedication long enough to master any musical instrument. But to create a musical instrument, develop techniques for playing it, and then become a master of that instrument … it’s practically the stuff of musical legend. But for Austin-based musician Mike Gray, it was just something to do with a broken guitar.
Here, Gray performs the Blind Willie Johnson tune “Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right” near the Grove Arcade earlier this year. Continue reading Mike Gray covers “Everybody Ought To Treat A Stranger Right” on his Go-Box