Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Rumble Of Thunder

It is thundering outside.
It is about 3 hours after I
Help A Craka' Out
had decided that I would take this (Sun)day off, maybe do laundry, maybe record some tracks, but definitely eat some "restorative" foods, of the kind that I just bought down the street, at the Ideal Market, the "Spanish" one.
My food card was charged with 194 bucks last night at midnight, after the 4th of July fireworks were only a faint sulfurous smell in the air.
I had gotten to the Lilly spot at about 11 PM, and played for a total of an hour and a half, netting about 37 bucks.
I arrived an hour later than I would have, had I not ran the errand of acquiring some bud, but it was one of those nights (again) when it seemed like I was cosmically connecting with the equally stoned audience; speaking their language, reenforcing their vibe...or just taking advantage of the fact that, to them, all music sounds better on some good bud, and their I was...
The Essence Of It All
It was also the last day of the "Essence Festival."
The Essence festival is a showcase of African American talent, with every featured artist having skin no lighter than a coffee with maybe one creamer in it. Mary J. Blige, and Usher were there.
It is also becoming a weekend (which falls around the 4th of July annually) when I hear a lot of other white buskers complaining about the dearth of tips.
Jay (the really loud singer) comes to mind.
He, for the second year in a row, complained about "these cheap n*****s."
He was also sporting a sign (identical to the one that adorned his guitar case last year) which read: "Help a cracka' out."
Last year I did very well during Essence Festival.
I did better than almost anyone else (with the exception of certain Asian violinists that had an American flag stuck in their hair) that I talked to.
I think the formula is simple.
The city was inundated with black people; here for the festival.
They put as many police officers on duty in the Quarter as they had uniforms for, plus some guys in shirts and trousers that were "close enough" to being police blue and who had their personal pistols tied to their belts.
There were many instances when I had police officers at 10 o' clock, 6 o' clock, 4 o' clock, and a couple coming down the street on horses, who would be there in a minute...
Here We Go
The local newspaper bore the headline of "Here We Go," in regards to the occasion.
There was no exclamation point after "Here We Go", though, making it seem that whomever wrote the headline was consumed with, not bated anticipation, but rather, dread. 
As in: Here we go, our city overrun with black people everywhere you look; and; what's going to happen this year...a random shooting spree? An all-out brawl on Bourbon Street? Only time will tell, but, "Here We Go."
To bring this back to my original point. I did the same thing that I did last year, when I had garnered at least one 100 dollar tip: I played the "whitest" music that there is.
I know that black people are very keen to a white guy who is trying to patronize them by playing "black" music. They can detect a Stevie Wonder song being performed by a guy who never even owned a copy of "Songs In The Key Of Life" 3 blocks away.
Jay's "Help A Cracker Out" sign was also seen through by them, I suspect.
I wasn't consciously playing the "whitest" music in existence; just, my best material.
I played Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Lennon, The Beatles and it seemed like they took me as being genuine and thought "That's what he SHOULD be playing; this makes
sense and reaffirms my view of the world; I can't stand it when some white boy breaks into Barry White or Al Jareau, thinking he's gonna impress me; what does he know about Barry White? That's the music my grandpa used to put on our old beat up phonograph each Saturday night, and we used to sing along; that's sacred music...makes me want to break his guitar over his head...for real!!" and they tipped well ($37/hour and a half -for comparison only- your tips may vary...well, at least compared to the other complaining buskers that I talked to....)
I only briefly fell into the Jimi Hendrix song, "Little Wing," but that performance was "genuine" and I was "feeling it" because I used to play that song on the bass, backing up a Hendrix impersonator, in my very first band at the age of 16. It was nostalgic for me; and the sweat pouring down my face on the 90 degree night was a good enough effect to "prove" to them that I was indeed feeling it. Plus, I forgot, in the moment, that my performance might be construed as pandering.
I broke into a bit of "I've Never Had A Dream Come True," by Stevie Wonder; at one point but avoided, again, having ther guitar broken over my head, by the Hand of Fate.
By The Way
All 168 of you, who visited my recent post entitled: "Eating Myself Out" (which was about "eating myself out of house and home)" grow up, perverts...just what the hell are you searching for on the Internet, anyways????


Alex said...

White people!e trying to sound black, which they're obviously doing just for the festival, has got to be maddening.

In busking you've got to be genuine.

Daniel McKenna said...

Well said, Alex In California...
Although, Wendell (the acoustic guitarist/singer, not the flute player) playing "FM" by Steely Dan is cool as s**t -there's definitely a double standard in play there (excuse the pun)
He gets no static at all playing that song LOL!

Alex said...

It's complicated, Ebonics turned out to be largely derived from the speech of English small-town Hicks who were sold into indentured servitude and worked along with black slaves, who were eager to learn the new lingo. The banjo is certainly African, but the modern version certainly had non African design input. Blues, gospel, ragtime, and finally jazz are a real synthesis, even incorporating Jewish music.

The more history I read the more I understand the resentment, but yeah, don't be lily white and try to play lowdown blues in a predominately black area, it will almost certainly not fly.

Daniel McKenna said...

Yeah, one of my sheetmusic magazines featured the music of some famous writer (like a Sammy Cahn, Carol King type figure) who said that his early hits were Jewish music that he "adapted," and he went on to write a bunch of now standards that people would be surprised to hear (excuse the pun) came from Jewish melodies/scales.
I didn't know that about ebonics.
I did work with a black guy in Federal Way, WA who was more than happy to explain his people to me; but one of the things that he said was that if he said: "Are you crazy?" to another black guy, it would be OK, but if he said: "Is you crazy?," the other guy might take a swing at him.
With that, I ain't even going to attempt any Robert Johnson. Is I crazy?