Saturday, June 13, 2009
‘Welcome to the working week’
I hope you don’t mind if I take stock a little at the end of this first week. Thanks for indulging me. I won’t do a review like this again until the project finishes. What I will try and do, though, is produce one feature-type piece over each weekend, looking at an aspect of life underground or something music-related.
So what did I learn in these first five days?
Well, it confirmed two things that I always thought: that playing on the Subway is really hard work, but that New Yorkers – the musicians I’ve come across so far and the people who listen to them – are fundamentally kind and generous.
I’m very grateful for all the encouraging messages, both in the comments and privately.
Some readers have been coming to this from a musical perspective; others from the journalism angle – I hope that wherever you’re coming from you find something interesting as we go along, and thanks again to Play A Little Guitar on the music side and Buzzmachine on the media side for their mentions.
On the blog: I’m pretty happy with the Blogger layout, but I’ll tweak a couple of the sidebar items. I’ve been experimenting with embedding the video clips and it’s worked pretty well using the Flip camera.
I’ve also set up a channel on YouTube where I’ll gather all the clips together as we go along, so if you’re searching for a particular performer but you’re not sure when I wrote about them, you can look on the video channel without scrolling through the whole blog.
I’ll stick to ‘excerpting’ a minute or less of each artist just to give readers a sense of what they sound like. Also, the shorter clips load up much quicker, especially on laptops or smart phones.
I always ask the performers’ permission to video them, and if they say no then of course I’ll respect that.
Some days as we go on, there might not be any video at all.
As for my own busking experience, a couple of lessons:
• It’s only going to get hotter in New York, so complaining about the heat and humidity is pointless.
• I have light gauge strings on both the guitars but I don’t think they’re going to be robust enough. I’ll give them another week then I might swap them out for Mediums.
• When choosing a location to play at, the acoustics are what’s really important – stations vary widely in terms of how busy they are, both in train and passenger traffic, but if no-one can hear you, then it’s a bit self-defeating.
• Having someone say “sounds good, man” is every bit as rewarding as having them put a quarter in the case. Having them sing along and put a quarter in the case is even better.
Next week I thought I’d try something I’m calling “BuskerCam” – I’ll tape the video camera to my shirt and you can watch people’s reactions as I play. I might just do that for one song and see how it goes.
Please get in touch if you have any suggestions or ideas that could make this a more fun and enjoyable ride for all of us. And, of course, if you’ve seen a good subway musician, let me know.
So thanks again for reading. And for all buskers everywhere, there’s always the chance - the remotest beautiful chance – that something like this can happen…