Break­ing Glass

GA Voice - - Front Page -

Busk­ing isn’t the old­est pro­fes­sion, but it’s likely the sec­ond or third-old­est one. The word comes from the Span­ish bus­car, “to seek.” Tracy Chap­man and Josephine Baker be­gan their ca­reers as buskers. Bob Dy­lan and Robin Wil­liams busked in their day. Ac­cord­ing to 2007 sur­vey con­ducted by the StreetS­tage At­lanta (a busk­ing ad­vo­cacy group), the ma­jor­ity of At­lanta buskers were be­tween the ages of 26 to 45; half mar­ried and half sin­gle. Most groups con­sisted of two or three peo­ple. A quar­ter of At­lanta buskers were orig­i­nally from the city, and 75 per­cent of them were na­tive Ge­or­gians. As a group, buskers com­prise all kinds of street per­for­mances: jug­glers and cir­cus skills; magic, ac­ro­bats, comics, break-dancers, and sto­ry­tellers. This list leaves out the pleas­ing, es­o­teric busk­ings of fire-eat­ing, con­tor­tion, draw­ing, and es­capol­ogy, to say noth­ing of the ven­er­a­ble prac­tices of live-sta­tu­ing or snake-charm­ing. And, of course, busk­ing in­cludes mu­si­cians. Busk­ing, like most street arts, is widely prac­ticed and lit­tle un­der­stood, par­tic­u­larly by the denizens of the pedes­trian world. With this in mind, I sought an­swers from the mas­ters of the art. I specif­i­cally wanted mu­si­cians who had plied the trade in At­lanta. Miguel Lar­son, of the Or­lando-based act Rais­ing Cadence, de­scribed busk­ing in At­lanta as a great ex­pe­ri­ence. “We got to play at a cou­ple places, one be­ing near Olympic Park and we met a lot of cool peo­ple,” he says. “The area was vast and play­ful. Ev­ery­one passing through were hav­ing a great time, it was a per­fect time for us to play.” He rec­om­mends busk­ing “to all mu­si­cians, dancers, artists, etc. You never know what your ex­pe­ri­ence will en­tail … I be­lieve mu­si­cians busk just for that ex­po­sure. The money is great and very gen­er­ous, but we find our­selves busk­ing for that con­nec­tion with peo­ple.” The band Break­ing Glass has also busked here. The group is a dark, rag­time punk band from New York City, fronted by Joey Hil­bert and Grayson Con­nelly. Break­ing Glass has a re­volv­ing cast, Hil­bert says, “but we travel the coun­try and soon hope­fully the world look­ing for like-minded peo­ple and a good time.” In At­lanta, they per­form with a friend named Hayes John­son, a sideshow per­former. Hil­bert says Lit­tle Five Points is one of their “fa­vorite places to play, a lot of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple.” He de­scribes busk­ing in At­lanta: “The peo­ple [are] nice. We make a good amount of cash any­where we are, be­cause we have a very tal­ented crew that plays rag­time and it’s mu­sic for ev­ery­one.” “The cops were ass­holes,” Hil­bert says, “but that goes for just about any­where, and we do it be­cause we have no homes and are no­madic trav­el­ers who need to make a liv­ing. Of course, it all starts with the love of mu­sic and play­ing in front of an au­di­ence, but by the time you are trav­el­ing and old enough to un­der­stand that you need food to live and no one is go­ing to buy it for you, it be­comes a ne­ces­sity to breathe an­other day.” Hil­bert says “a good deal of kids who grew up poor and travel also busk and play an in­stru­ment.” That was why “peo­ple [busked] in our group of friends. We grew up with noth­ing and had to travel [and] play to find a place to stay.” A lit­tle le­gal re­search ar­gues Hil­bert’s point. Back in 2007, ac­cord­ing to StreetS­tage At­lanta, the rules were sim­ple. Busk­ing was le­gal on the city’s pub­lic prop­erty — as long as the buskers fol­lowed two sim­ple rules: no am­pli­fi­ca­tion, and no sin­gling out a par­tic­u­lar au­di­ence (or per­son) for money. That changed, thanks to Mayor Reed, Ju­lian Bond, and then-Coun­cil­woman Keisha Lance Bot­toms. Ac­cord­ing to a 2013 Cre­ative Loaf­ing ar­ti­cle, “The up­dated or­di­nance made it il­le­gal to ask for money within 15 feet of pretty much any place where peo­ple might gather, in­clud­ing the en­trances of pub­lic or private build­ings, city park­ing lots, and ATMs.” They were aim­ing for pan­han­dlers, and hit the mu­si­cians. The mis­fires weren’t long in com­ing.

Ja­son Rhode

The DIY mu­sic site Son­icbids notes: “Com­pared to places like New York City or Austin, the rules re­gard­ing busk­ing are a bit sti­fling.” In May 2013, trom­bon­ist Eryk McDaniel was ar­rested by po­lice out­side Turner Field dur­ing a Braves game. And that was the sec­ond busk­ing ar­rest. Be­fore McDaniel, the po­lice ar­rested a Brook­lyn vi­o­lin­ist, Juan Pablo Chavez, and (ac­cord­ing to all re­ports) tossed him be­hind bars for six days af­ter he played at the Five Points MARTA sta­tion. A quick tour of the At­lanta sub­red­dit sug­gests that not much has changed in five years. “At­lanta doesn’t re­ally have a busk­ing scene,” writes one com­menter. “I wish we had more street per­form­ers. De­catur Square has the po­ten­tial to be­come a good scene.” In­deed, De­catur is at­tempt­ing to make an ac­com­mo­da­tions for open-air en­ter­tain­ers. In March, a city com­mis­sion approved a pi­lot pro­gram which would en­able buskers to ply their skills in a list of se­lect lo­ca­tions. Angie Ma­con of the De­catur Arts Al­liance told the AJC, “We want De­catur to be alive with mu­sic.” Buskers would be re­quired to con­tact the Al­liance and re­ceive a month-long per­mit. An­other At­lanta Red­di­tor com­mented, “The only places down­town where you can kind of safely do it near lots of pedes­tri­ans without get­ting private se­cu­rity ask­ing you to move is the side­walk out­side Peachtree Cen­ter. What­ever se­cu­rity on duty will kindly tell you where the mark is, over down by the Fer­ris Wheel. Cen­ten­nial would be a great lo­ca­tion, but un­for­tu­nately, they’ll make you stop or kick you out the mo­ment you start get­ting any on­look­ers.” That’s the ir­re­press­ible fact of street per­for­mance. As long as there are on­look­ers, there’ll be buskers. At­lanta is no ex­cep­tion. The law, the gov­ern­ment, and many prop­er­ty­own­ers of At­lanta ap­par­ently don’t like street mu­si­cians. But the peo­ple do — and so, as far as the streets of the city are con­cerned, as a singer once told us, the beat goes on.

June 8, 2018

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.