Tag Archives: Colin Stetson

Subway Saxing

13 Mar

From time to time over the years I’ve been playing bari sax I’ve made forays into the time tested and true world of busking, that is playing in public spaces for donations.  It’s a classic form of performance which dates back centuries and has helped musicians and street performers survive all over the world throughout history. 

The first time I tasted the thrill of putting on a guerrilla style live performance and having money thrown at me was in Melbourne in the late 80s — I was invited to busk with some other girl musicians and some circus performers ate fire and did backflips and other tricks.  It was Christmas Eve (a hot summer night in Australia) and people threw money at us wildly — we made several hundreds of dollars in a couple of hours.  After that myself, the drummer and the tenor sax player decided to go out regularly and do it on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.  We’d go out in the day time on the weekends and discovered quickly the joy of counting up small change which can add up to large amounts very quickly.  That busking band, which we called Modesty Panel, was the precursor to my nightclub rock act Moisturizer which was born in New York a few years later. 

Since moving to New York in the mid 90s I’ve mainly played in club acts and my experience busking has been fairly limited.  It’s difficult here to play in public spaces without a permit.  After my first few times out in the subway I was told to move on by the cops; I didn’t even get a ticket, but I was discouraged, and feeling that I didn’t want to be having conversations with cops whatsoever, I refrained from going back to the subway platforms.

Meanwhile, over the years I’ve seen & heard many great musicians playing in the subway including two saxophone players I admire enormously, Colin Stetson and Matana Roberts.  There’s a banjo player I love called Morgan who is amazing and plays at the Bedford stop on the L train sometimes.  My late, beautiful friend Gerard Smith used to make his living busking on classical guitar in the subway system before he went on to be in TV on the Radio.  Hypnotic Brass Ensemble took over Union Square many a night and my new friend and collaborator TinaKristina grew up busking in the subway with her whole family — I remember seeing them in the 90s — she was playing the shit out of the bass when she was 13 — her little brother was on drums, her mom on trumpet and her little sister on didgeridoo. 

There is definitely something that the experience of playing downstairs has that no club, theater or festival gig can offer.  The immediacy and closeness of the public and their reactions or non-reactions is completely different than anything that can be experienced in concert.  My favorite part of it is watching the flux of all the people.  Little kids are often transfixed and I’m happy to say most of their parents teach them what to do … put a dollar in the case!  I love seeing who responds to what kind of music, because it’s very often surprising. 

When I go down I play a lot of original music I wrote with Moist Gina in our band Moisturizer, which was an instrumental rock band.  Some of those songs go over very well.  And then I play covers — usually some Diana Ross & The Supremes, Lou Reed, Patsy Cline, King Curtis and The Beatles material.  It’s fun to just start playing and see what comes out. 

I made a pact with myself recently to go and play in the subway on all my days off, so I’ll see how long I keep it up. If they give me one of those Music Under New York banners you may see me out there all year!

Here’s an interesting article I found about the history of busking.  I particularly like the term “jongleur” and may start referring to myself accordingly from now on when I go. 

http://www.buskerworld.com/busking_history.html

 

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Colin Stetson – Judges, Solo Bass Sax

10 Oct

Colin Stetson ripping it on bass sax with crazy overtones and circular breathing tricks! I’ve been moved to tears by this man’s solo performances.

The Amazing Baadasssss Colin Stetson and his bigasssss bass sax!

8 Mar