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Old 06-30-11, 06:50 PM   #1
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Default No love in SF

Recently went down to the San Francisco/Bay Area to see my family. While there tried performing on Fisherman's Wharf; hoping to make some extra scratch for the trip and find out if I had gotten any better in the year I'd been away. Now I'm setting up, doing my typical crowd gather I usually do up here in Eugene, Or. and......nothing. Couldn't get a audience. I even got desperate and nabbed some ones kid while they were looking at their iphone, parked it in front of my pitch, then started twisting balloons for the tyke. The parent laughs, grabs the kid and goes back to his iphone. Granted this was eleven in the morning but still. Not a single spectator?

Is this typical for FW? Are all the passersby so desensitized by brightly coloured adds, pan-handlers, and merchant stalls trying to sell everything from food to nicknacks that they would rather escape into their phones then watch free live entertainment? Or am I so used to Oregon that I have grown soft?

Anyone else out there with recent experience in San Fransicco?
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Old 07-02-11, 06:07 PM   #2
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Default It doesn't get any easier

Hi EoS,
Haven't been to SF since '81 myself. I have a general comment on things that make it tougher to be a street performer these days:
I was watching one of the competition shows last week, the one with Sharon Osbourne as a judge, and I thought, "This is why it's hard for the jugglers to get a crowd any more."
Along with the less than talented, there are some very talented acts on these shows. The bottom line is that the bar is raised for all performers; it's just harder to impress folks these days.
Another trend which somewhat affects me personally is that there are more buskers than there used to be...even in the (Boston) subway, there are spots that are so overplayed that one has to be quite special to attract attention,
And don't forget all the i-phones, android phones, i-pods, mp3 players, etc. Many twenty-somethings apparently do not want to be bothered by what's happening where they actually are.
So I guess we all really have to continue to work on our shows to compete in this modern world.
Good Luck

Ciao - Kevin M. "Sing-along with Kevin M."
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Old 07-10-11, 03:27 AM   #3
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I live in SF and I think FW is pretty lame for the casual busker. I do a dance/character thing for fun and practice and a little cash sometimes in different spots around The City. FW is the only place I've found that the cops will pretty much leave you alone, but there is so much going on down there it can be tough to keep peoples attention.

Also, and I hate to say this, but some of what is going on down there is pretty low bar, and tourists getting accosted for money by "performers" every ten feet get jaded pretty quick. I get the feeling that if you have a tight circle show and want to register with the city then there is still money to be made. If I was paying my rent through busking in SF that's what I would do.
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Old 07-25-11, 12:20 AM   #4
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Location: San Francisco
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San Francisco is an embarrassment of riches. To quote the philosopher Jerry Garcia, "Don't be the best at what you do, be the only person who does what you do." In order to work the streets in SF you've got to have something unique, especially if it's endearing, captivating, or embarrassing.

There is a Powell Street busker whose act is simply a rat lying on a cat lying on a dog. People give him $1 to $5 just to take a photo of this.

And of course there's the notorious Bush Man (actually there've been several Bush Man guys), who hides behind a tree branch and scares the life out of people walking by. Bystanders wait for him to pull this gimmick and either they or the victim tips him. I hate this as do all the other street performers, but, well, it does work.

Then there was the woman whose singing and keyboard playing were SO BAD she embarrassed herself, but yet she managed to support herself and 2 kids on her abhorrent street skills.

Juggling? Unless you're a Scot Nery and can juggle an apple, a bucket, and a chainsaw, I'd say forget it or figure out some unique way. Folk guitarist? Forget it unless you can create custom songs for the passersby, perform comedy songs, or play the guitar behind your back or something.
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