This was kind of a quick spur of the moment show. I’d had a pretty busy week, and was feeling a little tired–especially my legs–so I was curious if I had the stamina to put on a 30 minute show after all that.
I got to the old familiar spot around 8pm, and realized it had been nearly a month since my last show. This dawned on me when I realized I’d forgotten my old buddies, the benches, and suggested I’d either had a worse week than I thought, or I was just a bit out of practice with the whole street performing thing.
Well, I’ve played a lot of shows without benches, too, so this wasn’t going to stop me. I began playing and everything felt okay. On a warm Portland evening in the Alberta District, there were plenty of pedestrians passing by. It was a pretty typical mix of people: couples on dates walking by me on the far side of the sidewalk; small nuclear families letting Junior take a gander as they push his stroller past; groups of teens with a couple of people (sarcastically?) dancing as they go by; iPodders who already have their music, thank you very much; sly video-snappers who walk past without even making eye contact, as they stare at their phone making sure the shot is framed; and the poor unfortunates trying to eat vegan Mexican food at the restaurant across the street.
It’s easy to think you’re wasting your time playing music for strangers because you often get so little feedback. I don’t recall any kind of applause, but I did get a few encouraging smiles, as if to say, “Keep at it…maybe you’ll get better.” So I kept at it about 45 minutes, and called it a night.
I wasn’t in the greatest mood by the end. There’s this thing people do where they walk past, then stop to watch just out of the corner of my eye, while I’d much prefer someone to stand closer and be more like an audience, not so much like a spy sneaking a peek from behind a mailbox (it’s happened). There was also a bit of PWI (photography without interaction) which is a breach of etiquette between spectator and street performer; I’m not looking for money or even applause, but you can at least say something. (Like, maybe ask if it’s okay to photograph?)
I wasn’t in the greatest mood even after a musician (or at least a guy carrying a guitar) stopped for a minute and gave me a thumbs-up, although I did feel a little better. And a nice young man did actually stop during my last song, and he asked about my drum kit, and if I’d made it. I told him no, I didn’t and while this didn’t seem to bother him, I was feeling insecure, like he was re-evaluating what he’d watched and I was coming up short. So I added, “I didn’t make the guitar, either.” I was trying to refute a point he wasn’t even making, trying to prove that it’s not who built the drums, it’s who plays them that matters in the moment. It was awkward, and it made me feel worse than anything else that happened night.
So if you read this, kind young man: I’m sorry for my snippiness. To answer your question more properly, no, I did mot make my own drum kit. I bought it from a fine craftsman who makes folk instruments for a living. Please check out the Farmer Foot Drums website for more information. Or see my FAQ.
I’m going to cool it on Alberta and 21s for a while. Seems like we’re not too sweet on each other lately.
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