Yesterday afternoon, I happened by a small crowd that had gathered around this particular fellow, who is a performer at the Scotiabank Buskerfest in the St. Lawrence Market area of downtown Toronto. At the pinnacle of this particular element in his not-quite-death-defying routine, I captured the moment with the camera I had conveniently brought along. When I posted this image on Flickr.com this morning, Suzanne noted “Life certainly is about balance…nice shot”. Her comment intrigued me. My initial reaction yesterday was to his precarious position, but of course no physical harm would come to him should he lose his balance and slip. On the other hand, his financial situation likely is extremely precarious, unless I have underestimated how lucrative busking can be. I don’t see a Budweiser or Pepsi logo on his jacket. He earns his living by entertaining audiences. At the Port Credit buskerfest in Mississauga last weekend, a performer reminded the audience many times that he was not paid by the organizers of the event. His only income is voluntary donations from the audience.
Unlike Nik Wallenda, who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope just a few weeks ago, on June 14, 2012, this busker is not exactly undertaking a death-defying stunt. But also unlike Nik Wallenda, he is intimately involved with his audience. A TV commentator noted the thousands of onlookers who held their smartphones out to snap a picture of Wallenda and remarked on the infinitesimally small and disappointingly unrecognizable image of Wallenda they would discover later when they reviewed their photos. He was distant and stayed distant. This young busker is not at all distant from his audience and can be easily photographed. He maintains a constant and practiced patter and adapts immediately to unexpected comments from his audience.
Samuel Johnson said “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” This busker doesn’t need to concentrate on the balancing act. Falling off the bottle wouldn’t be a tragedy. It might even provide a useful comic moment for the onlookers. On the other hand, failing to engage the audience sufficiently to get some cash of their pockets would be a disaster, and not just to his fragile ego. He is concentrating but not on the bottle under his foot.
Actually, there isn’t anything he is doing that you couldn’t learn to do. And it might actually be a lot more entertaining! But I suspect you would prefer the security of a salaried position to the precarious lifestyle of a busker. If that is not the case, here is a guide for getting started in the business!
Photo credit: Dan Armishaw I presume that was already clear!
- Buskers vs Panhandlers: (backroadscholar.wordpress.com)