The blues of busking

It was Saturday. The rain wasn’t yet falling but would later on, getting my beautiful second-hand saxophone a bit wet and making me worry about rust, the ultimate triumph of nature and the fact that taking it to the streets is ultimately overrated.

What are the streets going to provide, anyway? Revolution? Egypt’s triumph of the masses has gotten a little convoluted. Affirmation? Unlikely. Definitely not comfort. People are only out in the streets because they’re trying to get from Points A to B. The journey is uncomfortable and the destination is everything. That’s how it always appears, until my girlfriend told me that the journey/struggle really is the meaning, and the destination is just a promise to keep us going.

Busking either makes me very happy or very unhappy. One can either find a comfortable, spacious place to play a musical instrument in the CBD (result: no money), or hustle where people congregate and be told to piss off by business owners and other buskers. The council restrictions read as follows: “You are not allowed to play anywhere fun. Or practical.”

So, why do it? There’s affirmation and a bit of money. It’s better than just playing for nobody in my bedroom. That is probably the order of the priorities unless you’re a dude with a guitar who has it and knows how to rock the casbah. They make cash, colourful notes. Others just make coins. Or nothing, if you fancy yourself as a lost soul playing alone under a bridge. Beware of trolls.

I’ve come to hate Swanston Street, from a busking (and aesthetic) perspective, but there are few alternatives (Bourke is for semi-pros). Business people don’t care about noisy quasi-vagrants, which crosses off the CBD westside. The older we get, the more our heart dies?

Sometimes I get two or three fans. People seem less inhibited to ask directions from me. What do you know, I’m a fixture. The best are people who take a film of me playing on their phones, or want to take their picture with me. Maybe I’m briefly not a nobody, to them I’m a Melbourne icon! I could care less if those people give me money, they are giving me something else, something better. But money makes the world go round too.

I have my staple songs but tire of them rapidly. I know what works for sax, in the circumstances: no songs with repetitive notes, or that are too slow and indistinct. I read sheet music like a grade prep learning to read, all pauses and squinting, so it all has to be in my head. Occasionally I connect and a couple of people tell me I’m awesome. Yeah, I knew already. Oh, you mean at sax?

Sometimes I am not on, make many mistakes and have to smother a rising humiliation. I’ve already scattered some pre-coins into my box to not look so pathetic since many people look not at me but into my box, wondering if they should quit their own day jobs.

Of course they should, but for unrelated reasons.