It’s a testament to the times that we live in that the only time I hear music in a public space is when I go to Morrison’s. I would listen to the piped shop radio station, replete with various 80s hits, usually upbeat pish like Wham! and Cindi Lauper, lest something more pensive should make you consider shopping less or something.
In any case wasn’t expecting Joy Division or Mudhoney to accompany the buying of suspiciously cheap pineapples. This experience of hurried, masked, panicked, musical consumption, limited to aisles of beans or biscuits, is in my opinion quite representative of our musical dystopia; indeed from capitalism’s point of view, using music as a lure to keep consuming has been a depressing staple for a while.
Anyway, as fun as my trips to Morrison’s have become, and so starved of music in company as I am, it was quite a surprise to hear for the first time in a while, the rarest of rarities: some live music.
The G14 postcode, synonymous with its endless system of underpasses and aggressive swan population, is now becoming known for the very concept of listening to music played by people, for other people. Remember that?
I would hasten to add that this musical rebirth has coincided well with what had hitherto been unthinkable here in Glesca, five solid days (and counting) of not merely a lack of rain, but actual sunshine too. Meteorologically speaking, the weather won’t last, however the music has gone from strength to strength.
In the last few days I have heard Fleetwood Mac courtesy of Lori and Maria McAveety, Bill Withers from Matthew Gibb, Kenny Rogers by Gregor Hunter Coleman, and The Proclaimers coming from Liam Doyle together with the first two musicians, Lori and Maria. The latter, a version of Sunshine on Leith, melted my heart DESPITE the fact that I am *ahem*, a Jambo.
I used to busk a fair bit, back in the dark days of an ill-spent and ill-advised attempt at living in London. Days were spent on the permit-free Hungerford Bridge, nae mic, watching fingers turn black in the cold and guitar strings break under the stress of trying to project sound, unamplified, into one of the world’s busiest metropolises. My voice, as befits hours of unsupported singing was left torn up for days; a sorry mixture of Tom Waits and Nico.
Thankfully, times have become much more professional, with amps, cajons, tambourines, harmonies, collaboration, CD sales, and links to social media. There were also some fingerless gloves on show too, so kudos. This is more than busking, this is a concert, pure and simple.
The reaction has been very evident. Apart from what I hope to be relatively well-remunerated musicians at a time when getting paid for playing music is tough enough (even when there is NO pandemic, this can be a difficult concept), the success of having live music can also be measured in the sheer joy of people listening. There is dancing (socially distanced of course), smiling, filming, and a palpable sense of happiness that had been otherwise absent for long periods of this pandemic.
Apart from the organisation of artists themselves in terms of social media followings and CDs, my discovery of the month has been ‘Buskers of Glasgow’. Brainchild of Carolyn Sleith, the page promotes the plethora of talent that this city has to offer in terms of music al fresco. In writing about music, and the music scene I always come back to my base belief that community movements in music trump 21st century individualism time after time. Carolyn’s genuine passion to propagate and support the musicians featured on the page is a perfect example of how working together with passion can create a sustainable side to grass-roots music.
In terms of supporting the musicians themselves, the page allows a myriad of sharing options for each featured artist. For those who would like to offer financial support, then that’s possible too. It’s £3.50 a month, which is the price of a pint or a coffee, depending on whether you are in Glasgow or Edinburgh.
Sunshine with a soundtrack. What more could you want?
*This post focuses on buskers playing in Victoria Park, G14. For all your busking needs across the city of Glasgow, visit Buskers of Glasgow.
I also write irreverent ‘reviews’ of new releases from Scottish artists. if you want me to write about your song then get in touch here.