One thing I miss in my gap year is the morning commute. That may sound strange, but I do miss the interactions with fellow travelers. I miss the friendly conversation around music, politics, and coffee during my stop at Filter coffeehouse. I miss the 30 minute routine I established twice each day to sit on the train and read.
And I miss the opportunity to hear street musicians—or buskers—on a daily basis.
These performers put themselves out there for all to see and hear amidst all types of weather. The 30-to-90 seconds (or occasionally more) I was typically within earshot invariably brightened my day.
As noted in Wikipedia, the term busking was first used “in the English language around the middle 1860s in Great Britain. The verb to busk, from the word busker, comes from the Spanish root word buscar, with the meaning ‘to seek.’ It was used for many street acts, and title of a famous Spanish book about one of them, El Buscón.”
Thankfully, I still see buskers some days in Silver Spring and on my less frequent forays into the heart of the District. In the past few weeks, I came upon three of my favorites, and wanted to share their music with you.
When she’s playing inside the entranceway to a metro station, Emma G‘s voice—which is powerful in its own right—takes on superhuman qualities. She rocks, she wails, she sings in so many styles and with so much style. Named by the Washingtonian magazine as one of the city’s top buskers, she regularly performs in concert halls and venues around the city and around the world, and she has videos of her original music on the web. But it is always great to catch her on the street to hear her sing from the heart and to have the chance to interact with her friendly and welcoming personality.
My second favorite busker is not a specific musician, but a type: the brass band and its subset, the all-trombone band. When these cats are playing, you can hear them for miles, and—unless you are an uptight DC law firm—they will bring a smile to your face. New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band is one of the most famous of these groups, but there are a number of DC-based bands who can bring the heat. We’re fortunate to have one regularly playing in downtown Silver Spring at lunch as well as by our local metro station in the afternoon.
Finally, the one-man band has always been a favorite, and we have a great one in Silver Spring in Moe Nelson. A marine biologist with NOAA for his day job, Moe often plays Saturdays at the Silver Spring Farmers Market and—along with our regular juggler—is a guaranteed kid magnet. With his string bass, harmonica, and ukulele, he shifts effortlessly between various styles, which is understandable given that’s he has played bass with nationally-known performers such as Bill Kirchen (King of Dieselbilly), Dan Hicks (swing songwriter), Maryann Price (jazz vocalist), Johnny Gimble (western swing fiddler), Jethro Burns (swing mandolinist), and Big Walter Horton (blues harmonica). In addition to his wonderful one-man-band work, he also plays with several D.C.-area groups, including the Hula Monsters, Grandsons, and King Teddy.
Be on the lookout for your neighborhood street musician. And always remember: tip the busker!
More to come…