Saturday July 24 I headed to Pike Place Market, possibly the largest center of activity in the heart of Seattle. It's a fun, beautiful area, with tons of cool stores, restaurants, and (of course) coffee shops. I hope I get some time to talk about my experience of the Seattle obsession over coffee, it's like a whole thing in and of itself.
It was another gorgeous, sunny, summer afternoon. There were a few other musicians performing on the streets, so I had to search a bit for an area that was getting a lot of people traffic but wasn't stepping on any of the other musicians' turf for the day. I finally found a great corner that tons of people were walking by. I set up and began playing. Performing by myself on the street for passersby is a whole new thing for me, and a totally different experience than playing in bars and music clubs. In a way, it's slightly more intimidating - in a club where I have a show booked, someone has invited me to play and people come out expressly to watch me. On the street, no one's committed to watching me at all, so it's really up to me and my music to grab people's attention. That can be tricky for any performer - to me it can feel like pressure to do something extra, something over the top to demand someone listen to me. But so far I feel like trying too hard at anything in life never works. I think it's always best to just show up and do my thing as best I can, and let whatever happens happen.
The advantage of street performing over the clubs I've found is that sometimes I'll play a venue and there are some people who are there but who aren't particularly interested in hearing me play. They may be there for another band or musician that played before me or will play after me, they may have come primarily to hang out and talk to their friends, or what I do may just not be their cup of tea. But because I'm limited to whoever is in the place, to be looking out from the stage and see people actively ignoring me can be kind of tough to take.
I've had experiences when I'm playing what I feel is one of my best songs, and really being into it and playing well, and someone right up front will stop watching, turn around, and head straight out of the room. Now in reality I'll bet that sort of thing has very little to do with me or my music - maybe they just need to go to the bathroom, maybe they had a rough day, they're tired, and they really need to leave and go home. But it's still a challenge sometimes to be feeling like, "Yeah! I'm really rockin' it right now! People should be digging this!" and then immediately have someone turn and leave.
With street performing, so far I've felt this really cool sense of freedom - no one has to watch me or listen to me, but I'm not infringing on anyone either. I feel this great sense of having a right to be in the world, to be on that corner, doing my thing. People are free to stop and listen or not, they have total freedom of choice. So far, I haven't had a single person give me any negative signal whatsoever. If I'm in the right spot, I have a steady stream of people walking by me, so if somebody doesn't stop to listen, it feels like there's nothing wrong with that at all.
So I played and played and played, and although both of my street performances so far have been nerve-wracking at the start, that Saturday I really got into just playing for my own enjoyment, and the pleasure of anyone who might like what I do. I think I played for 90 minutes or more, and I just had fun the whole time. When someone stopped to put money in my little collection box, it was such an amazing feeling. There was one person who didn't stop, but just started dancing once they heard me, and kept dancing down the street as they kept walking. I know money is very important, but sometimes there are really are cooler things in life than money.
After playing I went down to the piers on Puget Sound and had my breath taken away by the view. Mount Ranier to my left, the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges to my right, and the waters of Puget Sound before me. Pretty darn amazing. I called a friend back in New York to catch up and describe the amazing day I was having.
On the way back to my car I found a cool little independently-owned punk rock music store, so I went inside and picked up some CD's. I got "God Bless the Go-Go's," their reunion CD from 2001 I think. As I mentioned earlier I had listened to Belinda Carlisle's autobiography on CD in the car as I headed west. She mentioned that CD and I was curious.
I also found a CD by Digger. Digger had this guy Chris in it before they broke up, and Chris is a friend of mine who at least a while back was in a new band called The Horrible Truth About Me. I met him and his new band at a show in Pennslyvania and they came up to play with me in Brooklyn one time. I had never been able to check out his previous project so I scooped it up.
Finally I picked up a fairly recent Joan Jett and the Blackhearts CD. I saw the movie about the Runaways a few months back, and although I thought the film had issues I really enjoyed learning the band's story. I was curious as to what Joan Jett's sound is like these days so I picked it up. I had a nice chat with the guy working the counter (who may have been the owner or one of them, not sure) about the Go-Go's and Digger. He is a big Digger fan, so that got me even more excited to finally hear them.
After purchasing my CD's, I headed back to the car and got back on good ol' I-5 to go back to my hotel for some much-needed mindless TV-watching and sleep.
The list of songs I played that day in Pike Place Market:
1. Jagged Cross 2. Name Today 3. The Door 4. Short Little fire 5. Make the Escape 6. Binge 7. Toxic Tornado 8. Sarbanes-Oxley 9. Junk 10. KC Writer 11. Scary Mary 12. God Bless the USA 13. Knockin' on Heaven's Door 14. Spin Cycle 15. Alien Homeland 16. Beautiful Wanderer 17. Into Debt 18. Home of Love 19. When I Fall 20. Better Lives 21. Final Friend