Tuesday 25th October, Devonshire Street tunnel, 10:25 -12:25
I set myself the challenge to take my guitar to the streets and perform in public. I started playing a few years ago but between backpacking and my not owning my own guitar until I got back to Australia, they were by means solid years of practice.
Advice from various sources all told me to not wait though. Don’t let not being perfect hold you back from getting out and busking, otherwise you’ll never get out. It’s good advice and my first outing was to the Devonshire Street tunnel, you know, the one from Central Station out to Railway Square.
Walking along the tunnel I was lucky enough to spy a decent stretch where no one else was busking. I should have stopped but this was my first time busking, still a virgin, all nerves and uncertainty, so I continued walking to the end of the tunnel, eye out for a toilet. You go to the toilet before starting a road trip, right, and I figured busking was no different. A note to pedestrians and buskers alike: There are no toilets on that side of Central Station!
The hell with it I thought to myself. Let’s do this. I went back into the tunnel and approached the busker at that entrance who was between songs. I introduced myself and asked him if there was any etiquette on asking a busker when they would be finishing up, etc, but he just waved me on down the tunnel. Okay, not terribly helpful.
So I set down my case while the traffic flows on unperturbed. I unzip and go about getting set up and no one is paying attention. Of course why would they? I strike a few chords to warm up and decide to play ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ by Greenday; the first song I learned and I’m pretty comfortable with it. By the end of the song I’d discovered two things. Playing a song sitting at home and standing up performing it are two completely different things. My fingers were all cacky and I’m sure it sounded pretty rough.
The second thing I learned was that playing in the tunnel is easy as there really is no pressure on you. People are flowing by too quickly so that if you mangle a chord or forget the lyrics the people who heard it are gone in five seconds and you have a whole new audience to start fresh with.
It should never be about the money when you busk and really it isn’t. But now let’s talk about the money. When the first person deposited some coins into my hat a rush of gratitude surged through me. Here was validation in monetary form!
Later an Asian lady stopped to donate and asked me if I was an overseas student trying to earn money. Replying in Cantonese I told her no, I was born here. From that she surmised I was busking in order to gain confidence from public performance. Now here was true validation or at least understanding. Plus we did it in Cantonese! When I counted up my money later I was amazed to see a $5 note that she had donated. Such generosity from her and from others!
My first time out and it was a fun experience. I smiled and got nods and smiles in return. It wasn’t so hard but I overcame the challenge.
2 hours earnings: $12.90 (enough to cover my busking permit!)