BuskNY was proud to speak at Busker Ball 8, a showcase for the city’s most vibrant freelance performers, on Thursday. Under the direction of Theo Eastwind, the latest Busker Ball brought its focus to activism, criticizing the wrongful ejections, tickets, and arrests that have plagued the NYC subway performing community.
Grace Kalambay performs
BuskNY spoke and displayed the banner we used for our rally at City Hall, and the audience also heard a recorded update on buskers’ rights from Nick Broad of the Busking Project.
Performers included Lawrence Wilson, Eli Bridges and Ken Shoji, Theo Eastwind, Grace Kalambay, Cathie Russo, and Mr. Reed.
One online commenter, writing at Norman LeBrecht’s blog Slipped Disc, had this to say :
“The big problem here is that the NYPD is NOT enforcing the law. In fact the law protects the violinist’s actions. He is being intimidated for no real reason. I have had similar experiences, being threatened by MTA employees etc. When busking I always avoided being arrested, simply because I couldn’t afford the time and money that would go into defending myself, and because I was afraid my instrument would be harmed in the process. The police count on the threat of mistreatment to frighten most buskers into cooperation with their whims — it’s nothing to do with obedience to the law. The police are the ones ignoring the rule of law here.”
He said it better than I can. We hear the same from other performers: harassment is a regular phenomenon. Further, musicians feel disempowered to fight it, particularly when police will neither read the rules nor create any form of documentation of their harassment short of cuffing us and hauling us away. How can you fight a station eviction later when you were asked to leave verbally? Which agency investigates complaints based on a verbal record? And when an insistence on getting some measly scrap of official paper in order to lodge a complaint leads, as it did in my video, to arrest and detention, will we insist that every performer also be an activist, have a practical knowledge of arrest procedure, wear a sweater to protect against the cold in jail, and have a fund ready to replace his or her instrument? Are those the criteria in order to benefit from the protection of the law in NYC? We are sick and tired of this theoretical law, sick and tired.
The shirts arrived Thursday evening, and since I only had two days available to print them before losing access to my studio space (and I’m spending Sunday helping to install my show at the Painting Center), we had to rush to get them done.
Printing the first shirt.
With only two people, it took seven or eight hours to finish the front side of all 135 shirts.
We started with the pink shirts.
My cousin Zeke took a detour into the city on his way up the Appalachian Trail, and he offered to help us print the backs. With his help, we finished them in four hours.
And he bought us food!
The print shop’s mustachioed Pratt Cat, who is most often found sleeping in the paper guillotine’s scrap bin, visited us in the silkscreen lab.
About half of the finished shirts.
Matthew and Kalan will start distributing them to subway performers this week. Remember: Music is Legal!