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Old 08-19-10, 03:08 PM   #10
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Grand Rapids Michigan
Posts: 41

Hi all!
We were the "Regional" buskers brought in last minute that the coordinator mentioned (Not all that regional really...We work from Ottawa to St. Louis Missouri!) This festival just happens to be close to home.We honestly did not know we were "scab" laborers when we took the gig. If we had known then what we do now- We would not have taken it.
Below is my review of the festival that I posted on another busking forum. Very sad to find out ours was not a unique experience.
And one other side note- There was never a 600 person crowd. I would be amazed that there was ever more than 100.

Wow...I mean...Wow.
We did this festival for the first time in 2008. It was our first real experience in a competitive busking environment. We had worked plenty of street shows, but never in a highly charged professional busking environment. That was a fun time- We met Peter Snow, got some good TV coverage, good friendly crowds and some pretty decent hats. We knew from the other performers that it was far from the larger busking fests they were used to (200 to 500 person crowds as opposed to 5-700), but compared to the street work in Michigan, it was pretty cool.
Thursday I got an e-mail from XXXX (Name concealed out of courtesy), the coordinator for this years festival. She had an opening in the schedule for this weekend and wanted to know if we would be interested in coming out. We had just finished working the Street Series in Holland MI that night and had a private gig Friday. We had the weekend off and were just going to do some street work anyways so figured that we would just do it in Windsor (Where they would already have a good crowd waiting for it) instead.
The car was already packed so we left Saturday morning. We hit the border at about 12:30 and managed to talk our way through the border (A few small snags- They don't know their own laws for crud!), get checked into the place they had put us up at, changed and hit the pitch by 3:30 pm. It was a different location from the previous years- Instead of the huge park/ice skating rink, it was a side street. We were told we were supposed to start at 4.
It was deserted. I swear there was a tumbleweed.
There was no one there. The "Street Closed" signs were there, but pulled off to the side. There were some signs for the fest, but no people, no staff, nothing.
I called XXXX. They had decided to start at 6 instead of 4. No signs anywhere saying that, no call to us to let us know, nothing. We decided to get some lunch while we waited.
We show up at the location (A side street filled with empty businesses and for rent signs) and now the street is blocked off, some chairs are set up in the blazing sun and there is a sound system. We set up for the show and get ready for the influx.
All six people that were actually on the street (Volunteers for the "festival") got a great show. Ok...Slight exaggeration, we started off with 6 and ended with about 20. They were pretty generous for the size crowd, but I could have done better on my home pitch.
Up next a magician friend (Wayne) of mine showed up to do his show as well as another performer friend Bill. We watched and then got to hang out with him between shows for the rest of the evening. It winds up that he was the only performer left that stuck out the entire festival. It used to be one intense weekend, now it was stretched out to 10 days. Of the initial 8 acts they had booked, only he was left since he was local. ALL of the other acts had bailed after the first weekend. XXXX had only told us that she had an opening. Not that ALL of the slots had opened. It wound up being us, Wayne and a karaoke singer in a mumu named Bev in the "All about Bev" show specializing in 70's easy listening.
I'll admit, after that first show things got a little better. We got the bar crowd walking by our alley and managed to pull in some 60-80 person crowds (According to XXXX these were the largest crowds pulled in for the entire weekend) working back to back with Wayne the magician. We could hold a crowd between our two shows but they would all leave during the Karaoke womans act and we would have to start from scratch again.
After our last show at 10:30 we worked out the schedule with XXXX for Sunday and went back to crash.
That was day one.
From our conversation with XXXX, we were supposed to start at 4 pm.
At 3:40 we start getting calls asking why we weren't there yet. Apparently, they had changed the schedule so we were to be on at 3:45 without telling us. We get there a little before 4 and now we have a grumpy crowd sitting in the chairs waiting for us. We do the show (Again, small but generous crowd) and then go to eat in the parking space behind our car. Karaoke woman goes on and the crowd wanders off.
As they wander by, they stop to ask us questions and complain.
"When are you guys going on again? That woman is terrible."
"We looked for the busker fest at the park where it usually is...We wandered around there for an hour!"
"The poster shows 7 or 8 acts...Where are they? Why aren't you on the poster?"
"Are you guys it? This is the whole thing? Just one stage area?"
"Why are they doing karaoke?"

We finished our other two shows and got the heck out of dodge.

Other issues-
We were given a place to leave our props that would be guarded by security (We were never told about the green room)
We came back to find out that the "Security" guy had been going through our props because he wanted to figure out what our fire powder was.
Same security guy creeped out Sylver by sexually harassing her when I wasn't right by her side.

Found out that one of the many reasons the other performers left was because they are sent to perform at locations where they would get no tips as "Goodwill" for the Fringe festival- To bring people down for the pay to watch theatre shows.

In short- If you get asked to perform at this festival and XXXX is in charge, don't do it. She funneled all of her funding into promoting the fringe and has no idea what she is doing outside of that. The busker fest is her lowest priority, unpromoted, disorganized and overall a bad bet.
The only positive thing I can really say is we didn't lose money. We covered our expenses plus a little. If it wasn't for being able to meet up with some good friends, it would have been a waste of time and effort.
We would have been better off grabbing a corner ourselves and working outside of the festival.
Hope this saves some of you the time and effort.
Gwyd of the Knotty Bits Sideshow
gsidhe is offline   Reply With Quote