Cops Photographing Buskers

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April 21, 2009
By Posted in Times Square Subway Station | 1 Comment »

I held the elevator doors at the Times Square subway station for a slow walking oriental gentleman. He said to me: “you play the musical saw”.
Saw Lady: “You’ve seen me?”
Gentleman: “Yes. I play violin”.
The elevator doors opened and we said our goodbyes.

down the elevator shaft at 42nd street station

I sat up at the Music Under New York busking spot by the mosaics.
A homeless guy pushing a shopping cart in a tilted way (because it was missing a wheel) waved hello to me.
There was a yellow barrier by the elevator, indicating that the elevator wasn’t working. An MTA employee came, pushed through the yellow barrier, and took the elevator down…

A guy said to me: “This is crazy – this metro card is a week long one, good till Saturday. I’m going out of town. Do you want it?”
I didn’t think it was crazy… I thought it was great!

metro card

A cop asked me for my permit. He didn’t know that this was a permitted busking spot… “I always see musicians on the mezzanine” he said. I explained about how the record store on the mezzanine is blasting its music, which caused MUNY to open another busking spot at this remote end of the subway station. A 2nd cop nodded his head in agreement to how loud the music the store plays is. “It’s nice and quiet here”, I said. “Enjoy” the cop said, and handed me back my permit.

A guy asked me to watch over his cart. He went away. 20 minutes later he returned with a young guy. They took the elevator down.

At 2:20 Delta Dave, the blues guitar/harmonica player & singer, was on his way to the mezzanine. He doesn’t like that spot but today he has a guitar player playing with him, so he is just going to have fun. We both agreed that that spot is only good for bands now – not for soloists.
Juan Castillo, the mandolin player, went by with his busking gear and asked “how is everything?”

Delta Dave

The Hypnotic Brass Band was looking for a spot. They told me the police shut them down once because they were in the spot of a permitted musician (and refused to vacate it). I don’t understand why they don’t ask for permits – they are members of MUNY and eligible for permits.

Hypnotic Brass Band

At 3:45 Sean McCaul, the vibraphone player, came for his permitted busking spot. He said things have been rough at Union Square – the cops were on musician’s cases. The cops told him that they were taking photos of buskers in order to crack down on them.
Also, he said that there are a lot of buskers at Union Square now – three to a platform, and the buskers are not courteous there – they crank up their amps and they set up on other buskers. The busking scene there is not worth the hassle, Sean said.

Sean McCaul

I asked Sean if he knows Frank Picarazzi – the other vibes player in the subway. He said they used to play together sometime. Even though they play the same instrument, they have very different styles.
Frank has a baby now, so his wife suggested that he get a stable job… He works at ASCAP now and doesn’t busk so much.

Frank Picarazzi

I asked Sean if he knows the lady who used to wheel a marimba to the Shuttle. He said she is doing really well writing percussion parts. She wrote the percussion part for the ‘Lion King’ Broadway show, for example.


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One Response to Cops Photographing Buskers

  1. mister anchovy on April 22, 2009 at 3:19 am

    I guess there are advantages and disadvantages to busking in an area where there are a number of players. On the one hand, plenty of buskers sets up a kind of “culture” that opens people up to the idea of shelling out a few Kroners. On the other hand, there’s more competition for the same buck.

    These days I haven’t been busking so often (I did play at a benefit recently though, to raise funds for a group of community gardeners), but I’ve found a place I like when I do busk, which is good as long as the weather is good. As long as I get there early to grab the spot I like, I can play until my fingers stop doing what I ask of them.

    I was talking to some people today about an annual street festival for dog owners in Toronto called Woofstock. A couple years ago, I tried busking there. They get huge crowds and I figured the more people around the better. It turned out, it was as if I wasn’t there playing. I was totally ignored, while people were lined up to buy doggie ice cream cones for fido.


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