Friday, 26 September 2008


The veins bulged on his neck. Sweat trickled down the side of his mohawk. Concentration was etched on his face as he butchered one chord after another.

"Oooohhhh woooah, we're never gonna survive, unless we get a little bit, craaaazy"

I'm not sure what drives a rotund, middle aged man with a moustache and peroxide blonde mohawk to stand in the middle of a busy street and perform an under-rehearsed 15 minute punk rock version of the song Crazy by Seal. Whatever his motivation, he provided something that couldn't be ignored by the customers of Starbucks on Second Street, downtown San Jose.

The performance had it all; soul, passion, drama, rawness, pathos and violent energy. He was a man wrestling with his inner demons and how to play bar chords in equal measures. His struggle on both counts was captivating. And that was only the warm up where he tuned his guitar.

Little did I, a young mother breast feeding her child, three off duty Nigerian taxi drivers and two Latino guys with a very small dog know what was about to hit them.

The busker had a sign in his guitar case that said "Will be your boyfriend for food" and he had the hangdog expression and pain in his eyes of someone who'd been dumped for the price of a Big Mac in the past.

I watched him play for well over half an hour, whilst sipping my iced tea, and in that time nobody gave him any money whatsoever. He'd also purchased a coffee, so his busking revenue for the day was actually in the red.

At one point a guy on a skateboard went past, with a guitar strapped to his back. Our man abruptly stopped the song and challenged him to a guitar dual. I even heard him use the phrase "Me and you kid, one on one"

After finishing a song, he went into Starbucks to use the facilities and perhaps gear up for another burst of Crazy.

I took that as my cue to leave and I dropped a few quarters into his case on the way by. As I walked down the street I turned and looked behind and saw him return to find his new found wealth, neck craning from left to right around the street to see who had been the distributor of these riches.

And then he began again...


No comments: