Posted by: Lare | October 6, 2012

Larry Becomes A Busker

Well, I know it’s been a while, but we’ve been visiting the Seattle area since late June and I guess we’ve felt as if, since nothing is going on related to sailing around exotic places, there wouldn’t be much interest. Lately I’ve taken to looking back at all we’ve done in the past three months and decided to give a report on some of this.

Coming back to the northwest after being in Central America was of course a temperature shock. I’m not sure I’ve ever re-acclimated since we sailed away in August of 2009, even when we we’re here that time for seven months. Ok, enough whining about the weather.

In July I decided to try something I’d never done; being a busker. A busker is defined by Wikipedia as:  the practice of performing in public places, for gratuities, which are generally in the form of money and edibles. People engaging in this practice are called street performers, buskers, street musicians, minstrels, or troubadours. My first foray into the business of busking began at Everett Farmers Market near the Marina of Everett on a nice sunny day at around 11am and ended at noon with $7 in my cowboy hat, (tip receptacle). I must admit that I didn’t expect to get rich, but $7? You probably noticed in the definition that some buskers play, (or in the past have played), for food. I wasn’t desperate for food, or money for that matter, but I did want the experience. Another idea in the back of my mind was marketing my new CD which at that point wasn’t yet a reality.

All in all it was a fun experience although I admit to some nervousness doing this new thing. It was obvious I wasn’t going to get rich doing this, but I wanted more so I decided to try busking at Pike place Market in Seattle. If you’ve been there you know that there is quite a variety of street performers there and consequently lots of competition for those precious tips. You may have thought that it’s only a matter of taking out a guitar and putting down a hat and crooning yourself into millionairedom, but in some places it’s a bit more complicated than that. In the case of Pike Place Market, unlike Everett Farmers Market, you must first apply for and be granted a busker license for a fee of $30. After the mandatory reading of pages of busker rules and receiving a map of numbered and approved performance spots I set out to impress everyone with my talents.

Having earlier cased the area for the best available spot I moved in. I won’t try to describe all the rules to which you are subject, and there are a few, but each performer gets one hour in a given spot and if it is occupied you wait your turn. The busker occupying my desired corner was a balloon twister and a very nice guy who would share with me the unwritten rules, one of which he was accused of violating a few minutes after I arrived.

As were standing, (in my new friend’s case twisting), there a fellow with a pigeon walked up and went into a tirade about how the twister was going over his allotted hour and not displaying his plastic coated performers permit. This was truly as bizarre as it sounds–a guy with a pigeon on his head yelling and swearing at a fellow in a clown suit accessorized by a nicely coordinated variety of colored balloons around his waist, neck, and head. I was drawn into the conflict because I was next in line for the spot and didn’t have my permit displayed either. The hullabaloo didn’t go un-noticed by the large number of passersby but in spite of the gathering crowd didn’t garner us any more tips. Eventually a security guard appeared and things got back to semi-normal.

When my turn to perform came about the pigeon head fellow stood about 20 feet away and glared at me until I asked him if he was “an asshole to everyone or was I just special?” He became copacetic but not apologetic after that and I finished my hour making $12, five of which came from the clown for standing there with him during the debacle.

That was my one time playing at Pike Place Market. There was no return performance. I decided that buskering in that high stress environment was just not for me, but if I change my mind I still have my license.


  1. Twelve bucks? That’s like two coffees at the original Starbucks at Pikes Place! Or, twelve beers in Panama! Good on ya!

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