The peculiar art of busking

Busking is an ancient and honorable profession.  If you’d like a good historic view, have a look at this origin story, collated by the Montreal Buskers.  But in its simplest definition, busking is the challenging art of performing for tips.

Like many semi-professional performance situations, this can range from the spectacular to the terrible.  In my 30 years as a working musician, I’ve busked in all manner of places and had all manner of results.  When I was fourteen, I played in an Irish bar, with the terrible songs a 14-year-old writes.  A kindly old Irishman asked me if I knew any Irish songs, and I had to admit that all I knew where the eight songs I’d written since picking up the guitar at 13.  The man smiled and threw a hefty tip into my guitar case.  “You should learn some,” he said.

I’ve busked for food money on cold streets, and that’s really sucked.  I’ve busked in places which were clearly just exploiting free labor with the promise of tip money that nobody was going to give.  I’ve busked in places where I couldn’t even afford a ticket, and had the chance, not just to see the event, but be a part of it, make friends, and fill up my guitar case coin of the realm.

Let’s face it: The performance realm requires a lot of “paying dues”.  Some of that is putting in the time and energy to master a craft, proving that you have an audience and can hold that audience, and showing that you’d be an asset to the show.  Sometimes that means going without sleep, sometimes that means working a full-time job and then practicing your craft at night as a second full-time job.  “Busking”, like “playing for exposure”, can easily create a situation that’s exploitative – if the promoter views you as free labor and doesn’t care about what kind of experience you have, doesn’t talk to you honestly about what you can expect, makes grandiose promises which aren’t based in reality.  On the other hand, it can also be a very sincere door.  I know a lot of performers who now perform full-time and command good appearance fees… who started out by saying, “You don’t know me – can I come in and play for tips, and prove myself?”

Choose your busking experience carefully.  Here’s a really good tip:  See what shows have buskers who want to come back next year.  That’s a pretty strong rubric.

For me, I love busking; I love testing my skills and my ability to catch and hold an audience, I love getting into doors which might otherwise be closed, finding a way into peoples’ hearts, going out and doing the hard work of reaching an audience, and being rewarded with their pleasure, their interest, and, yes, their modest financial contributions.  It gets me passionate, it gets me excited, and I do some of my best performance that way.

Busking may or may not be for you.  Think about what you want; think about where you can realistically expect to get in at this stage in your career, and what they might offer you; think of what will make you happy and advance your career; and ask all the questions you need in order to feel comfortable before coming in.  The same thing applies to any performing situation, really, whether it’s doing a friend’s Bar Mitzvah for free (don’t do that; it’s such an awful gig!) – to doing a show at DragonCon (which is the world’s largest fantasy/SF convention, and has a strict policy wherein they claim not to pay anyone).

If you’d like to busk at Glimmerdark, our peculiar Fairy festival, you’re more than cordially invited to do so.  You can get to the busking application right over at glimmerdark.com/busking-application-open.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

You Might Be A Dark Victorian If

What’s a Dark Victorian? It’s someone who likes their Victoriana a little on the shadowy side. Let’s be real: Goth and Steampunk have shared fashions since the beginning. If you’re a Steampunk who’s into the more haunting side of life, or a Goth fascinated by the 19th century, real or imaginary… you just might be a Dark Victorian.

(This is a crossover piece between Dark Side Of The Con and The Steampunk World’s Fair.)

Here are some signs of which you ought to be aware:

* You see dead things and think ” Yes, that would like lovely on my hat”.
~Athenya Wu

* You have a favorite graveyard for picnics (yes, the Victorians TOTALLY did that.)

*Your leather corset is black.

*…and you wear it to work.

* You think “Nightmare Before Christmas” is a documentary.

* You know occult history better than regular history.
~Tim Thrae Smith

* Your “memento mori” are all cheery holiday scenes.
~Tim Thrae Smith

* Your favorite date spot is an abandoned asylum with bleeding walls.

*You get mistaken for a Haunted Mansion cast member when you go to Disney World
~David Rogers

* Your daily wardrobe would make Lestat blush
~David Rogers

* You don’t avoid murder; you just wait until the bloodstains will go well with what you’re wearing.

* You wouldn’t want to run into Jack the Ripper…because he has terrible etiquette, and uses the wrong paring knife.

*  You use HP lovecraft quotes as pick up lines.
~Renee A. Gaul

 

~Jeff Mach (with contributions from many friends)

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

Three Questionable Steampunk Christmas Music Videos

Whether you fall on the “Happy Holidays” or the “Bah, Humbug” side of things, we thought you might enjoy a taste of great Steampunk music videos about the holiday season.

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing are Brits who put the “punk” in Steampunk, and their ode to Scrooge is no exception. Did old Ebenezer really change? The Cynics of Steampunk have their doubts.

The Eternal Frontier are some of Steampunk’s newest luminaries, and their rather awesome science fiction take on Santa Claus has genuine Christmas cheer with a thoroughly original Steampunk twist.  I’m not really a holidays kind of fellow, and even I fell in love with “Santa’s Making Time”.

Dr. Steel is one of the founders of Steampunk music.  He appeared mysteriously and vanished mysteriously many years ago with but a single cryptic note (he really did – read the article in the link!)  But before he disappeared, he gave us some incredible Steampunk music – like the simply indescribable “Lament For A Toy Factory”.

I wish you all a day of cogs, gears, and explosions!  Then again, I wish that pretty much every day.

Happy holidays,

Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

Nikola Tesla and the True History Of The World

SERBIA - CIRCA 2006: Nikola Tesla on 100 Dinara 2006 Banknote from Serbia. Best known as the Father of Physics

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As Nikola Tesla said:

A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes in Nature. In no way can we get such an overwhelming idea of the grandeur of Nature than when we consider, that in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, throughout the Infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.”

You’ve heard quite a lot of untrue things, but we at The Steampunk World’s Fair would like to give you the raw, unbridled Truth.  Here is the actual timeline of major events in human history:

April 7th, 1877: Nikola Tesla invents the Universe.
June 6, 1884: Nikola Tesla meets Thomas Edison.
May 15th, 1886: Tesla decides that a Universe with Edison in it is inherently flawed and uninvents the Universe. We’re all clearly living in some kind of weird dream, and Steampunk is the only thing that makes sense.

Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

A Steampunk Nursery Rhyme (With Squid)

mythological kraken tentacles with the sea and sky

What kind of kid
Has a giant squid
To take to bed at night?

No teddy bear
Is lying there
When they turn out the lights.

I’d be a-feared
Of such a weird
Companion to squeeze

Huge eye of green,
Arms
No legs, no nose, no ears!
But my best friend

My time with, when she’s handy
Says giant squids
Are great for kids!
In fact, she thinks they’re dandy!

I’m ready to run–
“Do you have one?”
I ask, as my mind panics

“Don’t worry,” she says,
And offers me Pez,
“I don’t have one.
I have six.”

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

Sure, Goth is dead, but it can still drink blood and buy tickets

Vampires!

You don’t have to be mad, a vampire, or someone who likes wearing all black to attend.  You just need to be someone who’d like to spend a weekend away from “normal” people.

Some people have been asking why we teamed up with VampireFreaks to make a new Gothic event; they pointed out that “Goth is dead”.

My first response is that if someone thinks it’s dead, I want to see the certificate and the autopsy.  Not because I don’t believe you, but because those things are damn cool.  Also, as H.P. Lovecraft said,

“That is not dead which can eternal lie / And with strange aeons, even people dressed like Death might object to paying $12 for a Coke at a club”.

Goths, dark souls, alternative people, those who have no interest in being like everyone else:  Rise up!  We’ve built you a home!  Come out and enjoy it!  The only way to create a gathering with meaning is for us to shake off the worries and cliches of time and day jobs and get ourselves in gear and make our presences known!

Come find us this March.  We’ll be waiting for you:  Dark Side Of The Con, with Voltaire.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.