Category Archives: busking
Documenting some more. It was Thursday midday, Knoxville Tennessee. One of the first real scorchers. Men were setting up the stage for a Better Than Ezra concert tonight (woa oh). Ice cream and hot dogs were everywhere. Alexander was busking on his alto sax by Cafe Four. I stopped in Bliss Home to reshoot Ashley’s work.
I’ve been taking Ashley to work on my bike (she frowns at the word “haul”). In the cool morning she walks, but at 1:30 she hops on the rack of my ox cart. A pregnant lady shouldn’t be walking these East TN hills in the heat of the day. She should be on a bicycle rack, clasping her responsible partner. The car is sold now, and that has been interesting. One more week of school and no more bike rides for the three of us. She already exceeds 50 lbs and we expect it to continue. And let me tell you, the hills are a bitch.
We just wanted to give an update of everything going on around the Mason Jar and with Ashley and I. Ashley is having her art workshop tomorrow night, 6:00 PM and you can click the tab to see this month’s theme. She’ll be at the Knoxville Farmers market this Saturday. I’ll be busking there beside her with my guitar and an accordion. For this month’s First Friday she opened at Kate Moore Creative and Jenny Andrews Photography, and the works are being currently displayed. She is also working on a costume design for a Knoxville Symphony Orchestra upcoming children’s performance.
I’m going out to the songwriter night at Relix Variety Theatre tonight and will be playing at the S &W Grand tomorrow at 6:30. Last Thursday at Sapphire was the first gig of my new three piece: Jon Augustus on bass and Webster Manneth on drums. We’re looking forward to playing around Knoxville a lot more. If you haven’t heard my third EP, Don’t Know How I’ll Eat but I’m Not Picking Your Peaches, you can listen to the whole project here and get some free downloads.
Next Saturday on the 16th will be our Mason Jar event this month: a craft night with stations for spontaneous projects. Feel free to bring something in the works, we are sure the creative forces will be in the midst.
Tags: emily janowick, home is where the art is, jenny andrews photography, jon augustus, kate moore creative, knoxville first friday, relix variety theatre, s & w grand, sapphire modern bar, webster manneth
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- Posted under Art shows, art workshops with a. addair, Ashley, busking, crafting, Economy, Good Packaging : a quarterly art and music subscription, home, mason jar, no room for hipsters merchandise, painting, Songwriting, street art, street vending, sustainability, The Hill, the simplicity project, Work
Ashley and I fit a 10X8 tent, a couple wooden tables, an easel and a plastic crate full of crafts into the Corolla most Saturday mornings. After that we shove paintings and wood blocks into the crevices before jumping in the car and trying not spill the first mug of coffee or slam a canvas in the door. We’re always the last to arrive at the downtown farmers market and find our spot easily because it is the one without a tent.
I park the car and go home to make more coffee, because that is no way to enjoy the first, then grab my guitar and an accordion in today’s case before making the second trip to the market, in which could no way be consolidated into the Corolla load of the first. Knox Janowick joined me today and we did a repertoire consisting mainly of Josh Ritter and Tom Waits with he on the ukelele.
I borrowed the accordion yesterday and I regard it as an instrument of it’s own, but if you can get used to pumping air and not seeing your hands on the tiny sideways keyboard the black and whites can be considered the same. In a moment of boldness I went into “Rocket Man” and later wished I hadn’t. We made about $8.47 and a box of grapes. Knox bought his kids ice cream with his cut
and I may invest mine this week in white acrylic paint. Gotta keep Ashley happy.
Ashley stayed posted at the tent and I brought her buttered bread samples. The salsa guy across the way was pretty good but next year I think I’m going to go for him. I make mine with squash and it’s harder to get it spicy. When faced with a guy trying to sell you a $5 mason jar of salsa AND a $5 CD what are you going to say? If it were me I’d feel the need to take both as to not insult the other.
By the way, I finished an EP yesterday. Kinda excited to feel finished with something. Click “hear Levon” above and have a listen.
Early on a Saturday in New York City, Ashley and I were already on the subway with bags of wood block paintings, embroidered pictures, handbags, guitar, dog, and laundry hanger. We’d crowded into the back of a near empty car when the train picked us up in Harlem. As we bound closer to Union Square, the bags and objects were strewn around the ankles and annoyance of several people. I didn’t know how we would ever get off.
The Union Square farmers market is a large one. The vendors’ tents are claimed by a system unknown to me, although I think there are underworld connections necessary. A delta of craftsmen and artists funnelled the congested row of farmer tents. In the early hours of the morning it seemed there were orderly rows, of which we snagged a spot on the 4th. Later the artists and vendors of other non edibles had gradually inched into a maze devised to trap a hungry New Yorker into disruption from the smell of apple wine and cheese.
Ashley and I don’t possess the aggression necessary to sustain life in these situations, and maintained our Southern manners. The back row vendors had plenty of time to talk shop and buy each others wares as to give enocouragement. I pretended to be a street performer with my guitar, but there are some top notch buskers as well as hollywood casted performances that occur at these occasions. We spent the day gaining our respective educations. A truckload of displays and a bum to hold our spot from Thursday were decidedly what we needed to do better next time. Crowding back on the subway, we were one wood block and a couple CDs lighter but the experience and enlightment we would file away forever as one of the successes we had come for.
And I later wrote this song. It is about the resolve of Ashley and her dauntless approach to living by her art. Musically it was co written by James Cameron, my cohort in Virginia Beach landscaping. It was recorded on the hill in Tazewell, VA. You’ll notice the space in the track for a guitar solo for whomever should choose to join my band, which will soon take over the radio charts and spill over Union Square to the ears of those buying apple wine and cheese.
Here it is:
(by Levon who was listening to Christabel and the Jons in Knoxville’s Market Square on the WDVX Blueplate Special)
Upon the arrival of 1000 of each of my CDs, I implemented a rather peculiar marketing strategy: I got on a bus to Mexico. Yes, I smuggled a few across the border, and who could say if I’m bigger over there than here, but back in Tennessee I’m trying to think about music and its market. I’ve got a lot of CDs after all, and it’s hard to find shelves. But this is not a commercial, it’s just what always has me thinking.
Musicians record albums and then tour to support them. It takes a huge financial backing, traditionally by a label, and even then it is only the beginning of fighting the odds. Today, the old industry infrastructure has nearly collapsed. Labels are left to squeeze the dear life from sure-bet acts, and newer artists are so risky that they can usually self raise as much support as a label would venture on them. Everyone has stolen music, it couldn’t really be stopped. Now we have an industry with no barriers to entry, so bombarded by self marketing musicians that what is happening can be anybody’s guess.
Let me be clear that I’m glad every musician has a shot. No one needs a golden ticket to build a facebook page, buy some software, and even pay the CD manufacturers (who are the true beneficiaries of the current music industry). However, this fair shot is still dependent on the limited ears and patience of a market that only lifts an eyebrow to new music as much as it ever did when the industry sought to give them a mere handful of selections. Undoubtedly, great music has always been made and never discovered since people have sold records and made livings as musicians. Now perhaps it’s out there, somewhere on iTunes, and in the event you find it by chance or by add request, it can end up a mix playlist for $.99. The band takes $.70 as their profit to buy food, put gas in the van, a little in the band fund, and split the rest 5 ways.
My point? Something is happening to our music and the music of our decade will likely be coined as “overwhelming obscurity.” Public opinion of art matters, pragmatically, because it determines who eats and keeps making it. Maybe the best thing for music can occur now; it will be locally acclaimed. Someone must put themselves in the public face to get recognized, for there is no need to go peering for it in the saturation elsewhere. That would be a good solution on a few fronts: namely it gets musicians playing. Busking, anything. Let the marketing be done face to face with the community. It will be on the streets in a good music town. And so, the town knows it’s artists, it’s sound, and it’s traditions are given back to them.
Now, the obvious problem. Nobody says anything bad about the Boss in Jersey, but Jersey isn’t Knoxville. Doesn’t a musician have to spread his market like any other merchant? Of course. When good music is readily accessible, it is also accessible next week. However, the number one rule that any aspiring band reads when trying to go on the road is this: “Own your hometown.” To do that, they need their hometown to listen and buy in. Think of it as sending off ambassadors of the Knoxville (or insert town here) feel. And when the national scene comes by your door, it will be better with what it brings you; because you’ve made yourself a music town.