Adaption

“In a city of garbage, trying to reap the harvest,
Adaption is the trap in which the artists greet the forests.
Swing your little ax or be an oak tree if you can
Either way, adapt to circumstance or play your final hand”

-Aesop Rock

Tools of the TradeSXSW Austin, TX

Tools of the Trade
SXSW Austin, TX

 
What I love the most about street performing is that it’s one of the most spontaneous activities I’ve ever regularly engaged in. To say it keeps you on your toes is an understatement. The sharper your reactions, the better you do. Same goes with riding, except the risks there are much greater.

On a wider scale, the more I travel as a performer, the more adaptive I become. I’m a firm believer in the powers of ones’ environment. I believe that you are created by the world around you, just as much as you create your surroundings. It’s a perpetual, simultaneously influential relationship. It’s important to consciously choose your geographic location, as well as those you hang out with, because all of it combines together to create who you are. Part of why I’m choosing a traveling lifestyle is because I know I haven’t seen enough of the world to know exactly where will fit my needs best.

New Orleans has been the perfect place for me at this point in my life. The culture is as live as it gets in the U.S., and it’s a fantastic crossroad that allows me to meet people from all over the planet. It’ll always be a place I come back to, but I know that it’s not where I want to settle down.

We are creatures of habit. Don’t make your show a habit. Make performing a habit. As I write I’m sitting having breakfast at a diner, where the waitress introduced herself as Irene. I used her name at least five times, including the last time when she brought my food and said “If you need anything else, my name’s Irene”. I understand where she’s coming from. Routine becomes habit. I’ve caught myself blurting out “I only do three tricks” at points in my show where the line doesn’t fit, simply because I’m so used to it being a part of the patter.

My first show in Austin was a beautiful wakeup call. You can’t just run through your show the way you always have. If you always work in the same city for the same crowd, you can get by doing the same ol’ same ol’. If you work more than just your hometown, though, you must stay present, read the crowds, test their sense of humor, and feel your way around the hat line. SXSW has a ton of no-cover events happening, which is easily misconstrued as “free”. In general, free festivals are full of people that are not looking to spend a whole lot of cash.

The crowds yesterday were phenomenal, super reactive and energetic. In just the last week, I’ve been getting used to doing my shows completely surrounded. Here in Austin I’ve had crowds all the way up to 100+ people, which feels great. However, since it’s a free fest, about 80% or more of them walk off afterwards without paying. It’s cool doing shows that big because when you tell a 100 people to say “Yeah!” and they all scream it, it’s a ridiculous amount of energy. I realized though that I was getting drained from all the energy exchange. Today I’m going to aim for shorter, more intimate shows.

Overall, I’m happy I came to Austin for SXSW. I’ve needed to get out of the city and back on the bike, and the change of work place has been great for my adaptation skills. The pay was still better here than it would be on an average Tuesday in New Orleans, but with so many walkoffs, half way through the day I switched gears and began primarily plugging my FB page and this blog.

SXSW has really shown me what I need to work on with my lifestyle brand. Social media, networking, multi-media; now that I’ve put in a year on the street, there’s so much I could benefit from by putting in some serious office hours. I’m learning the business side of being a magician, and this festival was a great wake up call. The posts will be much more frequent meow.

‘Til next time

-Niko