. . . and the living’s easy. Yesterday I woke up on autopilot, got dressed and made my way to work, only to realize upon arriving that not a cell in my body wanted to work. So I went home. My boss is chill like that.
A month in Seattle taking the “responsible” route and busting my ass while the getting’s good. I’d taken a total of four days off in July, two of them being Saturdays. It’s counterintuitive to take a Saturday off, but on those days that would otherwise be gold, there were other events taking place at my pitch. An area can reach a threshold where too much traffic makes a spot unworkable as pedestrian congestion, noise levels, and attendee attitude influences the street theater. It’s an undeniable truth that life is unpredictable, but busking has taught me the value of flexibility. There are so many factors that influence the day, one must learn to be flexible to avoid the risk of breaking. So for the sake of those Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, I decided to take these frantic Saturdays off to enjoy the festivities.
Street performing is such a mood-oriented thing. If the people that are watching your show are not in a good mood, and if you fail to turn their mood around early in the show, then it will likely not turn out to be a very good show. When newcomers approach a crowd that has a mediocre energy level, they’re likely to imitate that vibe. When orchestrating street shows, it’s crucial to begin with people that are receptive to reciprocating your energy.
In my eyes, street performing is essentially about making people feel good — and not just the people that choose to go see a show, not just those that can afford to be entertained by a professional — but everyone. We are entertainers, memory makers. Our task is to take the mundane and make it special.
The flip side of the mood coin applies to the performer. If you aren’t in the mood to perform, for gods sake (and your own, and your audiences), DON’T. If you are reluctant about starting a show, then you’re better off taking a little time to relax and see if your mood changes. If you try to push through it and THEY don’t turn your mood around early in the show, then it’s going to be a half-assed effort which almost always is met with a half-assed response. Sometimes it’s just not there, sometimes you’ve got to accept internal circumstances as well as external. This is precisely why I chose to go home yesterday. It is also why it is incredibly valuable to have a financial buffer, a rainy day fund.
A little over a year ago I began keeping track of what I earned each day I worked, and it’s been very insightful having records to reflect upon. In my second year as a professional street entertainer, I managed to pay rent, student loans/bills, TRAVEL, and still live comfortably enough while working a mere 150 days of the calendar year. While some of those were sun-up to sun-down days, many of them were less than five hour shifts.
Don’t get it twisted though, I don’t want to inaccurately glorify the busker life. In that year I didn’t put any money away, I lived humbly, rarely ate out, and there were a few weeks while traveling that I was dead-broke. But I did get to travel — which is the entire point to the M.o.M. project — and when I went to work I did my best to avoid even calling it that. Since grinding away July I’ve managed to generate a quarter of my total 2013 earnings (which isn’t saying much considering last summer was my second summer busking).
The backlash of this grind has been burnout. Yesterday was the first day in forever that I didn’t want to perform. One must find ways to make it fun again, like renewing a stale relationship.Trying new material is a great way to counter burnout, but the cost is that the show loses smoothness until the new material becomes ironed out. Sometimes, though, the only remedy is rest.
Last week marks two years owning a motorcycle, and I woefully celebrate the anniversary thousands of miles from my baby. I recently put on my old helmet, and later that night began dreaming about riding. Every motorcycle I see up here twists the dagger a little more, but now that I’m halfway through my summer-grinding timeline I have begun counting the days until I’m back in the saddle.
East coast, I’m coming for ya.
Thanks for reading. Have yourself a magical day <3
PS! If I can have just another thirty seconds of your time: A contest is underway with the prize being a few weeks worth of professional film gear. The Magician on a Motorcycle project has been selected as part of a web series, and the producer is hoping to win this competition. Please click here to vote.