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Hanging with The Others.

The third instalment from Zimmy Page… A wonderful look at the world that materializes when Street Performers Gather!


I tried to explain to a normal person what it’s like to travel around and hang out with other street performers all the time. I quickly realized that it almost defies description. And if you’ve ever appeared at one of these international class street performer festivals yourself, then you know that I’m right.

Most people live their whole lives, maybe they get to meet ten interesting, unique characters. Other people stop in the middle of the boulevard, draw attention to themselves somehow, get folks to watch them and get paid to do it. Other people are different.
Going to a place where a lot of The Others are congregating is better than the circus coming to town. A lot better.

First of all, you’ll be spending a good stretch of time with anywhere from twelve to fifty hilarious, unusual people, some of them with amusing accents. We’re talking about people who had to invent a job for themselves in order to survive in a normal world. Many of them are heavy drinkers and physically beautiful as well, so you may not wish to attempt this lifestyle while married.
And the skills that some of these people have are often baffling…not just the amazing weird-ass show that they came up with, but all the other mutant, strange gifts they possess.

How many of them are musicians–75 percent? 80?

It takes a musician’s timing to launch a street show, so that doesn’t surprise. A lot of buskers seem to have created amazing kids, too. And that does surprise.

There are so many world class performers that can do incredible, cutting edge computer shit. People who can sew and design clothing, sculptors, true artists who use glass, iron and wood…AND they can gather up strangers into a ring. How about those super-smart builders who can construct virtually anything the mind can dream up, like Peter Boulanger and Tom Comet? And almost all of these people are funny. Almost.

That’s why it’s never fun to go to the first meeting–‘orientation.’

Most of my peers aren’t very Oriented to begin with…except for Master Lee. Most of us are decidedly DIS-oriented and we like it. It takes effort and costs good money. Money you do not want to waste. The last buzz-kill you need is to be stuck in a room filled with a dozen class clowns TRYING to outdo one other in the “Circle Of Judgment.”

The co-ordinator is rambling on as you paw absently through your envelope, “yes yes yes I won’t set up there no no no I won’t pull the kids pants down like that guy did that year that time no no no I won’t be racist…I swear, whenever I see any Jews around I promise to shut up, okay?”   …blah blah blah.

No, the real joy of being a street performer at a street performer festival is found in the tents and green rooms between shows. Even better is the hang back at the hotel. Watching the stilt guy learn to juggle from the yo-yo guy who’s also a killer dancer…his bendy chick girlfriend wants you to stand still so she can do body curls hanging backwards off of your torso. Sure, baby.

If she likes you and the room is quiet enough, Emma Lloyd can lean into your ear and create the sound of mice tap dancing. Rhys Thomas can recite pages and pages of memorized dialogue like Shel Silverstien poetry for instance…but only in linear form. If he misses a line he has to start over again. Pee-Wee Murray can lay on his back…and leap up into the air using only his back muscles. He gets serious air, too! Eric Amber, who normally speaks with the hushed reverence of a bishop, can fashion the “C” word into over a hundred meanings, tenses and uses.

It’s so great to just absorb all the laughter the riffing the scheming the pissing contests, and of course everyone has a Jimmy Wong story or a Kim Kelley anecdote, and some of them are actually not unpleasant…naaaah, not really. They’re all pretty bad.

It’s never failed to stop me in my tracks at some point during the week–“This is all way too cool to take for granted.”
And then at night, guitars appear. This can be great. But what if it’s God-awful ukuleles, oy! People cluster up into teams as in every micro-culture.

The drunks always find each other and figure out if they have enough booze left.

The nerds always find each other to play “Settlers” and figure out if they have enough wheat left to play other nerdly board games.

The sluts always find each other to play “Bodies”. “Look there, nature lovers–she’s displaying!”

There are even outsiders. Can you believe that?!

Buskers that are also outsiders– sitting alone and dejected while surrounded by many other seemingly happy outsiders.

“Thirty certifiable nut jobs we got here, gathered up drunk in a room, and you can’t talk to any of them? Well, you go right ahead and just sit there staring. It’s your lucky day, smelly. We don’t ALLOW that around here. Wipe that gloopy look off your face and pull up a chair! We’ll make you have fun!”

This goes on for three, maybe thirteen days in some places, man. It’s so exciting to be inside this bubble, and the first few times you do one of these fests, it really affects you. It can change the way you think about yourself, your show, or even your place in the world.

You may even change countries.

Think of this: think of all the buskers who have pollinated, pollinated again and even cross-pollinated. Too many to count, but just enough to launch a really creepy porno site.

The examples that we all know of are hilarious to some, painful to others. Of course when it’s painful to some, that’s when it becomes even more hilarious to others.

I just love the Others. I used to hate the Others–now I’m their leader.

Just kidding–I don’t lead anybody.

But just like the rest of my street performing family and friends, I don’t follow anybody either.

One Response to “Hanging with The Others.”

  1. martin ewen says:

    You got it.
    The humility and the pride combined.
    The first day of the Dublin Buskers was rained out so they put on a bus to take us to Johnny fox’s, an old school pub overlooking the city and I just sat there at the back watching bent reality benders with their custom affectations one after the other get on the bus thinking…in a world of specialist people watchers here I am at the top of the homegrown self graduating pyramid, these are my people.
    It’s so powerful to spend your life outside looking in and then at these festivals having the outside wrap around you like a blanket given some victim of a natural disaster. To realise the natural disaster is you and that you are not alone and all the choices you made to get here were the right ones.

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