Sunday, December 17, 2006

Final days of street-singing (in US)

As my departure date draw closer, me and Tammy begin our frantic attempt to try out or do whatever we haven't done yet here in the Bay Area. For Tammy, it was about visiting more museums, checking out restaurants in the City or go on another Forever 21 spree. For me, it was street-singing. I'd write another long post to sum up my experience here in US in a day or 2, but for now, let's just say that I'd really miss street-singing in Berkeley (or SF).

The weather's been real shitty the past week, so I was really praying for the rain to stop at least for a day or 2. In the end, the rain did stop yesterday, so I ended up singing for almost 5 hours straight yesterday at the Berkeley BART station. It was really cold and at times I thought it was really going to rain. But somehow the weather held through and I actually got $70+ at the end of the day (my best day so far)!

It was a really satisfying time. Gotta play all my old favorites, plus a couple of Damien Rice and Keb Mo that I just picked up last week. Marcel, Chen Lu, Shong all dropped by to watch for a while. One of my favorite lecturer here at UC Berkeley, Bernt Wahl, also saw me and decided to join in for a few songs. A couple of passers-by also came up to me for a chat. 2 Jazz musicians asked me for a jamming session; a 40+ year-old Chinese lady danced to the Blues song "You can love yourself", a few gals came up to me to request for "Jamming", "One Love" etc (all Bob Marley numbers) but when I asked them if they know "No Woman No Cry" they gave me a blank face! I also saw Kathy, the first person I gotta know when I first started street-singing a year ago. It was a great feeling, singing my heart out in the center of Berkeley, once the enclave of the 60's youth movement (and hence Dylan and all the good stuff). The favorite moment came when I started singing "Dark side of the road". As a matter of fact I seldom do my own compositions while street-singing, but this guy came up to me and asked for an original, so I did the one I knew best. To my surprise I was really into the song, so much so that I closed my eyes throughout the song. When I'm finally done with the song, I opened my eyes to see this crowd of people who have gathered around me and gave me a round of applause. To find a pair of appreciative ears is just so much more rewarding than getting a few bucks, especially when it's for my own song.

In any case, I was all fired up and ready to go for another day of street-singing today. The weather couldn't have been better and I knew this is probably gonna be my last chance to do this in the States before I ship my equipment back to Singapore. Anyway, I always have this dream of street-singing at Fisherman's Wharf. Me and Tammy saw this street-singer belting out at this spot in Pier 39 when we were here 3 years ago and that image kinda stuck to my head. So I was really hoping to do just that before I leave. Unfortunately it was not to be.

We first went to Embarcadero, where we were supposed to catch a street-car to Fisherman's Wharf. Now they always have a farmer's market at the Ferry Building on weekend and there was a pretty good crowd. I got abit tempted and started looking for a spot to play. Unfortunately most of the "audible space" were already occupied by other street-performers, but I still ended up finding this really sweet spot. There ain't alot of passers-by traffic but the acoustic is soooo good (as I'm essentially facing a the formidable Ferry Building). I started with my usual "throat-warmer" Street of London. The sound echoing back to me was so magical; I told myself I'm gonna have a great time even if there's no one listening. Well, turns out the security guards were listening and they came to talk to me after that first song and that was all I had at the Ferry building.

Feeling slightly dejected, I decided to try my luck at Fisherman's Wharf, thinking "maybe I was really meant to sing there today". Found a decent spot and started setting my gear again. The sound pales in comparison to Ferry Building but there's surely alot more passers-by. At some point I started singing a Chinese song "我願意" and before I knew it, I was surrounded by a group of very curious tourists from China, who first filled up my money box with their dollar notes, before posing shots beside me and looking over my lyrics paper. Then there's this dude with his huge lizard just chilling on the bench across me the whole time while I was playing. I think he enjoyed my music, though he's probably a street performer in his own right, given that he and his cold-blooded companion attracts a bigger crowd than me for the most part. Anyway, just when I thought I was settling in and getting into the mood, a cop turned up and that was the end of it.

After this second time of "rejection", I was feeling kinda discouraged after finding most of the other "public parts" of the Wharf also occupied by other street performers. So that was the end of my street-singing career (at least for a long while). While I can't say that it ended on a high note, I was really glad that Tammy was with me the whole time when I felt dejected by the cops. She helped me with carrying all my "parang parang" and took the pictures below.

Looking back, I realized that for the whole day, I only truly enjoyed that "Street of London" song that I sang in front of the Ferry Building. And what was I thinking at that instant? Instead of getting immersed in that moment, I was busy thinking about what a great time I'd had for the rest of the afternoon and what other songs I should sing. Well, so I guess I've "missed" that magical moment. There's this saying "the gift is the presence". That really reminds me to live my life to the max, soaking in each day at a time. After all, I might very well miss out the best part if I keep planning for the next big thing....a rude awakening indeed.

Setting up behind the Ferry Building.

Singing for...sea gulls?

Finding "my" spot in Fisherman's Wharf, before running into the law...sian~

Dude with his lizard. He was sitting across me the whole time while I was playing. He seemed to really enjoy the music, though he and his unique companion certainly draws a bigger crowd than me for the most part.

Fisherman's Wharf...I hope to be back, and when I do I hope to do it right. A full 4-hour street-singing marathon is what I have in mind. Hopeful....

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