Busking log 6/30: Why we don’t fight back

Today, I met a guy playing guitar at the 57th St F station. He said that he’s been kicked out countless times — illegally — by the police. He’s showed the officers the MTA rules, submitted complaints to the Civilian Review Board, and gone to the stationhouse to complain. But surprise: nothing’s changed.

I asked if he’s ever refused to leave. Nope, he said. He doesn’t have the time for an arrest, he doesn’t want the hassle, and he doesn’t want an arrest record. Can you blame him?

I’ve just written a new page for the 57th St guitar guy and everyone in his situation, to show what we have to gain by refusing to leave our stations. After all, if we’re going to end the rule-breaking, it means lawsuits — and that’ll mean finding the time to go to jail.

So there you have it — the pro arguments in a nutshell. Game, anyone?

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Busking log 6/29: Y’all performers, and how I chickened out

Today was a great day to catch performances by other artists. (Seems like Saturday really brings out the best underground!) Highlights included a djembé player on the 86th 4/5, steelpan at the 42nd St ACE, and a really outstanding dance show at Union Square. Now, I don’t think I perform badly — but acts like these are doing the heavy lifting in terms of exhibiting and generating new culture. More power to you guys!

I also met a violin teacher en route from Philadelphia to Ithaca for a violin workshop. She performs herself — in the Philly subway — and said that her experiences there motivated her to become a teacher. Funny: many people assume subway performances are the end of the line for musicians. But if you listen to our stories, it turns very often that the subway is a beginning.

I had planned to play at 81st St Natural History — a station that’s known as “dangerous” for performers — for my last hour. But when I got there at 5:00, the “safe” side of the station was taken by an erhu player. I’m supposed to be standing up for my rights — but at that moment I was tired, I wasn’t dressed warmly enough for jail, and I didn’t want to stand up a friend for dinner. So today, I went home without playing.

Shucks: I guess that’s what they call intimidation. But don’t fret, 81st. I’ll be back soon!

Busking log 6/28: end of the month, start of a project

Well, it’s the 28th, which means it’s almost time to make rent. And, thanks to the traveling I did this month, my pile of $1 bills isn’t tall enough to make that happen. Odetta said it best:

My sweetheart, he’d like to get married
I’d like to settle down
But I can’t save a penny a day
Cause I go ramblin’ round, boy
Cause I go ramblin’ round.

On the other hand, I’m excited that BuskNY is off to a good start. We’re set up with Facebook and Twitter now, and the social media prowess of Jon Christian has sent over some thoughts on how to use this format to our best advantage in spreading concrete tips on buskers’ rights. (Our dream, lest we forget, is to make sure no one can Google “busking arrest” without learning that lawsuits are a possibility — something which was nowhere online when I was arrested two years ago).

We’ll be starting to promote the site right about now, and beginning our much-looked-forward-to leaflet campaign very soon. So welcome, everyone, from BuskNY. We hope you’ll stick around for the show!

Busking log 6/27: of arresting officers and subway contra

So, for the first busking log of the season, a couple interesting stories:

  1. Walking up Sixth Avenue, I saw my arresting officer from June 18th in uniform in front of a bank. (Hopefully no violinists do their banking there). I gave him a wave, he gave me a shrug, and life went on as usual. I don’t stay up nights hoping that he learned something from the arrest, but I would love to see him get into a subway performance someday.
  2. I’ve been making an effort to add a few new stations to my performance list. The target for the day was the 49th St. NQR, but due to an unfortunate fecal situation on the platform, it had to be abandoned. (Human? Canine? I’ll never know).
  3. In any case, I wound up at the 42nd St. BDFM at rush hour. It’s a two-platform, four-train station, and seemed a bit overwhelming. I skipped Bach and went right for New England tunes with a big grin, trying to imaging that everyone in the muggy, crowded station was participating in a vast, underground hey for four. (Allemand left, ladies chain, and stand clear of the closing doors!) The tunes worked to crack $20/hour — probably better if I go after rush hour. And they really generated some smiles among the audience.  See you soon for more commuter contra, 42nd!

Subway law: the MTA Rules of Conduct

Welcome to BuskNY’s all-new blog, a site to behold!

As tradition mandates, our first post is a link to the under-read, under-loved MTA Rules of Conduct. Don’t forget:

“The following nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities and they are conducted in accordance with these rules: public speaking; campaigning; leafletting or distribution of written noncommercial materials; activities intended to encourage and facilitate voter registration; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations; solicitation for religious or political causes; solicitation for charities.”

That means YOU, buskers!