My previous outing wasn’t the greatest, so I was looking to mix it up a bit. I loaded the gear into my car and drove to a nice little restaurant on Mississippi Ave. for a pre-show meal. I wasn’t sure where I’d end up, but there’s a spot on Alberta near the Radio Room that looks promising.
It was blazing hot, though, so I knew I’d have to wait until at least 8pm before trying to play music out on the street. As I was eating alone (not a pre-show ritual or anything, just Señora Demasiado was out of town) I finished a little early, about 7:45pm, so I just wandered around the neighborhood a little.
The sidewalks were pretty crowded, and I began to wonder about playing music right around here. It’s tough, though, because the sidewalk is pretty narrow on Mississippi; I couldn’t just set up any old place. Also, a lot of the ground floor businesses, although closed for the day, have tenants living upstairs, and I don’t want to bother anyone in their own residence.
Then I noticed the light bulb shop (Sunlan Lighting). It’s kind of famous for being cramped, the quippy woman behind the counter who rings up your purchase, and the Lego exhibits in the window. They were closed for the day, and it looks like the place upstairs is just their storage, i.e., no apartments. Perfect.
I set out my benches on the sidewalk, shaded from the setting sun by the clothing drop box, and got my kit together. A couple of songs in, a couple of friends I alerted actually showed up(!) and one even brought a third person. That’s already more audience than I’m used to (on average) so I was well ahead of the game when other people started to hang around.
A crowd of spectators kind of feeds on itself, and I generally had a half-dozen people at any time watching for the next hour. I think I was playing pretty well, and in spite of the heat I was putting on a good, sweaty show. My spot was obscured a little from Mississippi pedestrians until they were right on the corner, and I noticed a couple of times people expressing surprise that it was just one person making all this sound.
And suddenly all eyes were off me. A weird motorcycle-car collision happened, where a motorcycle apparently surged forward and crashed into a car. The motorcycle seemed to get the worst of it, though, and sparks flew. I refrained from playing while the rider’s condition was uncertain, but he got up and pushed his bike to the side of the street and a few minutes later I slowly resumed.
Some of my favorite moments of the evening: the man who made a U-turn on his bike and came back to listen; the number of people who were brave enough to sit on one of my benches–it’s oddly difficult getting people to sit down, hot weather or not; and an old friend indulgently tolerating my near butchering of one of his favorite songs, which I hardly play and really should have brushed up on before inflicting on an unsuspecting sidewalk.
But my absolute favorite moment was seeing a police car roll up, lights flashing. This may seem weird, especially after my previous encounter with Portland’s finest. But this time, the police were here to deal with the motorcycle-car crash aftermath. And as a long-time street musician often accused of “disturbing the peace,” I have to tell you, there’s not any much better feeling than seeing the police arrive to deal with someone else!
Well, I’m not one to push my luck. I played a few more songs as dusk settled in, and packed up. Then I had a beer with a couple of buddies, and headed home for the night. Mississippi…and Succeeding!
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