Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mill Avenue: Good times, good people, and Awkward Moments!

It has been a little while since I have written a new blog post. This past week was another great night of Busking on Mill Avenue. I had a few experiences that are most definitely blog worthy.
The first experience was really awkward. I will recap what happened. So, it was just after 5pm on Thursday night. I set up my amplifier and tuned my guitar. I began to sing and play the song "How to save a life" by the Fray. Midway through singing the song I heard and felt a large thump behind me. I jumped a little and my heart started beating super fast. I wasn't scared or anything…. I was mildly startled ok! Before I could turn around there was a very large hairy body in front of me. Luckily it wasn't a man. There before my eyes stood a huge horse. The horse had to be a Clydesdale, it was so tall. Now I know I am short, but I am telling you this was a tall horse. Sitting on the horse was a police woman. As soon as I made eye contact with the horse in front of me, it happened. The horse lifted its tale and began to drop large objects that were the size of apples and smelled the opposite of roses. Now having a large horse in front of you pooping, does not attract people to hear your music nor does it smell good, AT ALL. I moved my guitar case and avoided getting sprayed by the smelly hail storm in front of me. The police officer apologized. She explained they were training the horse and it was startled. How that huge terrestrial mammal was startled by me, I will never know. After the horse left I couldn't help but laugh at the awkward scene that had just taken place. Good news, they cleaned up the poop. By the way here is a technical diagram of the events.
Now, in the title of this blog post it says "good people". So let me introduce you to a man named King Shadow Blue. What is his real name, I have no clue. I met King Shadow Blue on Thursday on Mill Ave. I was taking a 15 minute break when a happy man walked by with a guitar case in his hand. Now I meet a lot of people on Mill Avenue, some of which are unpleasant. I have met people who do hippy dances in front of me while I play and people who scream and yell because they are intoxicated. King Shadow Blue on the other hand was one of the most pleasant people I have met on Mill. He told me that he wants to start a blues band that plays on Mill Avenue. He also told me about his children and how much he loves performing.
So I just wanted to send a shout out to King Shadow Blue, a nice guy with big dreams!!
In closing, let me just take a minute to say that I have the most amazing girlfriend. Katie has recently started singing with me on Mill Avenue and it is the best. She is a very talented singer and a pro at singing harmonies. I will soon post an Mp3 of us singing together. 
So come check out Mill Avenue on Thursday nights and you can experience some good times, good people, an awkward moment or two, and hopefully enjoy my music.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mill Ave: The Best Busking Locations

Busk: "to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place" (Dictionary.com).


Mill Avenue, the hot spot near ASU campus. It is where the college kids go to party and Mill Avenue is also the place where you can find some of the best Busking real estate in the Phoenix Area.
Throughout my Busking (I capitalize it because it is important) experiences on Mill avenue I have come to learn a few of the best places to busk. I will rate the best places to busk in terms of three categories. 1. Comedy 2. Traffic Flow 3. Money

Comedy: in front of the Post Office and La Boca
So what do I mean when by comedy and how does that relate to Busking on Mill Avenue?     Well as a frequent busker I have come to realize that Mill Avenue is full of comedy. Look at the people on Mill Avenue and what they are wearing. Just the other day I was walking down Mill Avenue when I walked by a man singing in a honky tonk country voice (not my favorite I might add) with gold paint all over his face. Now the real question is what does gold paint have to do with country singing?.…no clue but it looks funny. What I am getting at is Mill Avenue is full of comedy. There are two main locations I have found to be the most comedic places to busk. The first location is in front of the Post office on Mill and 5th street. I found this out while performing with my band a few weeks ago in front of the post office. While we were playing there was a young man who apparently loved our music along with a few inhibiting substances. I will refer to him as (Elvis). He came up to us while we were singing and got right up next to the guitarist of my band and started to swing his hips and dance to his heart's content. He then said some explicit words and complimented us on how much he loved our music. Honestly in his incoherent state I bet nails on a chalk board would of sounded good to him. Any who, the point is that is his dancing was hilarious. It was hard to perform while watching him, we thought we were going on Mill Avenue to perform; instead we were witnessing a free comedy show. The other spot that I rate as the most comedic place to perform is in front of La Boca restaurant. In a previous Blog article I wrote about the Hobo Medley which took place in front of La Boca restaurant on Mill Avenue.

Traffic Flow: in front of the Post Office and Corner of 6th and Mill

The point of being a Busker is to perform. Well the best way to perform is to have people walk by. I have found the best two spots to have a lot of people walk by (Traffic Flow) are in front of the Post Office and on the Corner of 6th and Mill. When I performed at both these locations I felt like I always had a steady flow of people walking by. In addition, I saw some of my friends that I did not expect to see. The nice thing about the traffic flow at both of these locations is minimal hobo interaction. Whenever I have performed on the side of Mill Avenue closest to the Post Office I have encountered fewer hoboes. Now I have nothing against hoboes, however some of them can be on some pretty serious drugs and honestly it scares people away. So if you are looking for the best places on Mill to reach a large audience, go with the Post Office of the Corner of 6th and Mill.

Money, Dinero: Rula Bula in front of the Post Office

Now one of my favorite things about busking is when someone walks by and throws some money in your can or guitar case. Seeing those green pieces of paper with dead president's faces on them ironically brings a lot of joy. When that money hits your guitar case it is like someone told you well done! I have made the most money when I have performed in front of Rula Bula on Mill. A few times I have had people give me five or ten dollar bills. That makes me feel good. However, I have also got a decent amount of money while performing in front of the Post Office. I have also had people ask for information so they can book me for shows when I perform there.


The best place to perform if you want a laugh, people walking by, and money:

The Post office on Mill Avenue

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Music in Advertising: Can you hear it?

I was sitting at my computer the other day working on a project when I found myself humming a song. I was trying to figure out what song it was, and then I realized I was humming the jingle, "5 Dollar Footlong" by Subway. I find it amazing that music affects us even when do not realize we are listening. Have you ever had a song pop in your head? Or found yourself singing a popular commercial's jingle? Advertisements use music because it connects with the human mind and heart in a way that only music can. No one can validly say, "Music does not affect me." I don't believe that. I am going to site two examples of how powerful music is.
  1. Music and Memory
As a child I had to memorize certain fundamentals of life. One of those is the ABC's. I imagine anyone who knows English has learned the alphabet through a simple song. The idea of memorizing 26 characters as a child seems overwhelming. However, when you put those 26 letters to music, Boom! Your memory kicks right in. In addition, have you ever had a song come on the radio that you haven't listened to for years and somehow you remember some of the lyrics? What a powerful tool this is for advertising. Companies spend large amounts of money on commercials to promote their product or service. Using music allows us to remember the commercial and company long after the advertisement has passed. The advertisement now exists in our memory. That memory can be recalled, often without even trying, when our brain connects the need for a product or service with the memory that is stored in our brain. In a sense you can say your brain starts doing the advertising.

    2. Music and Emotion

Have you ever tried watching a scary movie without sound? Try it sometime. If you are anything like me, you will find the movie is not as scary. Many of the movies we watch use music to inspire feelings and emotions. For example a sad movie will use music that emphasizes characters' words and actions to provoke feelings of sadness. Adding music to a movie or video increases the ability of the audience to connect on an emotional level. I recently went to a reception of a newlywed couple. They were dancing to their favorite song. The song added atmosphere and greater emotion and feeling to the moment. I looked around and noticed many of the women were saying, "aww." The music reinforced what was being portrayed at the moment, which was love. When we connect with something on an emotional level it develops greater meaning. Think back on an old blanket, shirt, doll or any other object that you were emotionally attached to. Getting rid of those objects is often hard, I know many people who keep them for life because they have a memory with the object that evokes emotion. In advertising emotion is a powerful tool. Commercials often use music to help the audience feel an emotion in regards to the objects or services being marketed.
Here is a quick experiment for you.

Below is a movie trailer:

  • Before watching the video mute the sound.
  • Now watch the video, or at least some of it. 
  • After watching the video with the sound muted, try watching the clip with sound .
  • See the difference!

Next time you see a movie, commercial, or hear
 a radio add, think about the message being sent to you through the music.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stories on Mill

The life of a Busker

Part 2

Preface- let us discuss a few simple aspects of life before I proceed with this blog post.

  1. When people do drugs they will do stupid things. So moral of the story don't do drugs!
  2. If you are going to do drugs don't do stupid things in public, people will laugh at you and write about you in their blogs!
October 19th, 6:00-9:00pm

This night would prove to be a night of much laughter. As I began busking for the night I encountered a few very unique individuals. This blog post is going to cover three of those interesting characters.

(Fred) the Drunk Dancer

As I began to perform my music on the corner, I felt inspired and invigorated as I played the music I loved. Few people walked by and every now and then I would get a head nod from a senior citizen that seemed as though he were saying, " Go get em tiger". After playing for about the span of an hour, I captured the attention of a smiling homeless man. He had with him a bicycle that was covered with random odds and ends he had gathered from extensive time on the street. He had long straggly hair and a few missing teeth, but he looked friendly (we will call him Fred). Fred located a bench near where I was playing and slowly plopped down to listen. After listening for about 15 minutes, he slowly danced his way over to where I was performing. Let me take a moment to explain his dance style, imagine a penguin waddling back and forth to music then combine that with an Indian rain dance and…….BOOM that is Fred's dance! So Fred danced over to where I was playing. I was sitting down at the time. It was obvious Fred was drunk, however he kind of reminded me of Jack Sparrow! Anyways, so I finished playing a song and Fred crouched down real close to me and leaned in uncomfortably close to my face. Fred then opened his mouth. With the scent of alcohol and mint tictac on his breath he asked me what kind of guitar I was playing. I am not going to lie I was really worried he was going to lean in for a kiss. His face grew closer to mine and I kept inching backwards. After explaining the brand of my guitar he nonchalantly stood back up and did his penguin rain dance towards his bike and then rode away.

The Rap Artist
As the night continued and after Fred had rode away, more people began to pass by me. I continued to play music. I played songs like "Free Falling" by Tom Petty, "How to Save a Life" by The Fray. The sun had gone down and it was dark outside. The light from the shops and the street lamps illuminated the Tempe downtown hot spot known as Mill Avenue. I had finished playing another set of songs, when an African American man approached me. He had on a baseball cap with the visor strait out and not bent or folded. He had on basketball shorts that were hanging low and his clothes matched from his hat to his shoes (We will call this man Tyron). Tyron came up to me and said something like, "Yo man lay down something and I will spit for you." For those of you who are not versed in Ebonics, that means he wanted me to play guitar while he rapped. I thought for a second and realized that I could not miss this opportunity. So I began to play something on the guitar. He then began to rap. Tyron was not too bad at rapping. (Now the Sarcasm) However I did not know the F-WORD could be used as a pronoun, known, adjective, adverb, verb, and conjunction. Tyron sure must be good at English because I had no clue you could use the F-WORD like that. Meeting Tyron was a unique experience not only is he concerned about matching his hat with his shoes, but apparently he was an English major. Best of luck to you Tyron!

The Hobo's "Homeless Medley"
The night was drawing to a close on Mill Avenue and I was a few songs away from calling it a night. I had acquired an acceptable amount of money in my guitar case and I was growing tired. I had finished playing a song when a Hobo approached me. I had met this Hobo before on Mill Avenue about two weeks ago. This hobo had explained to me a few weeks prior that my girlfriend and I would make "beautiful babies someday". We will call this man (Charlie the Hobo). Charlie the Hobo was in a somewhat baggy and worn black T-Shirt. His eyes were glazed over and it was obvious that he had spent years on the streets using all sorts of illegal substances aka DRUGS. Charlie the Hobo was not threatening but he was definitely obnoxious. Charlie came up to me and said play me a song man he was accompanied by another hobo who I will call Hobo#2. I began to play Charlie and Hobo#2 a song. They sat down right in front of me on the concrete and swayed back in forth in their drugged up state. After finishing the song Charlie asked if he could sing a song. I thought for a second I knew it would be funny, so like any other good American would of done I said sure Charlie you can sing a song, but no swearing. So I gave him the microphone and began to play a few cords on the guitar. Charlie began to sing a song I now call the "Homeless Medley", it went sent something along these lines (This is not an exact quote):

Homeless, Homeless, we are Homeless
We live on Mill Avenue
That girl over there is beautiful too
These guys are homeless you, you, and you (as he pointed at his friends)

You and your girlfriend are a good couple
You and her should make Beautiful……….(deep voice) Babies.
Living on the street ain't always fair
That is why we love to drink lots of… (Points to the other hobos and they join in).. BEEEEEEEERRRR!


So Charlie finished his beautiful song. I have to admit I was laughing so hard. People's faces as they walked by hearing him sing, were simply priceless.



So my friends DON'T DO DRUGS.






Friday, October 22, 2010

Stories on Mill

The life of a Busker

(read like a murder mystery)

 Busk: “ to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place” (Dictionary.com).

October 19th, 6:00 pm
                The sky was overcast as I drove on to Mill Avenue to indulge in a night of busking.  The Jack in the Box parking lot was softly lit by a street lamp and seemed a suitable place for a busker like me to park. Upon parking my beautiful blue ford ranger, I proceeded to unload the musical contents of my vehicle. I was then approached by a beautiful woman, she was none other than…. my girlfriend…. Katie. After saying the cordial “Hello, how are you?” and other shows of affection…. we proceeded hand in hand to my busking dream destination. My art and soul were ready to burst from me and enchant those who may pass.  However, as we were approaching busker’s paradise it seemed there were two musicians playing in my spot. I was confused, confounded, disoriented. I asked myself, how could this happen? How could another busker steal my dream location? Next to the two buskers I noticed the authoritative figure in charge of this MUSICAL MAYHEM. I approached them explaining that I was assigned to perform my musical genius in that location. The authority figure (who for security purposes shall be known as “Mo”) reassured me that there was other prime real estate for me to perform my music. I agreed and was directed to another location. If the previous location was paradise then this location would be considered purgatory. There was an empty building directly in front of the side walk and a small restaurant further down. Few people were passing by, and it seemed to me that I should give up. BUT NO!.. With my musical genius and talented busking abilities I would attract the people, I could not give up. Busk or not to Busk, that was the question, so… BUSK I DID!