dimanche 24 avril 2016

Busking in Burlington & Boston - US Coast Cycling Tour summer 2015

During the summer of 2015 a friend and I went on a cycling trip between Montreal and New York, and of course we took our guitars and busking equipment with us ;-)

So we stayed in Montreal for a few days after flying in from Brussels. Having spent a year there back in 2010 as an exchange student I knew about busking in the city, and so we had planned to play a bit before leaving for our journey. The weather was nice so rather than busking the subway we decided to try our luck outside, and so we went to busk a couple of times on Rue Prince Arthur, a nice and cosy walking street on Le Plateau Mont Royal!

We would have loved to busk more, but getting prepared for trip, buying all the equipment we needed including the bikes and trailer, took much more time than we had foreseen! But after four days of running around town like crazy, our trusty steeds were finally ready to hit the road!

We headed south for Vermont and the Lake Champlain, on a beautifull "Route Verte" that took us accross the charming town of Chambly and it's lake. From there we followed  the Richelieu River down to the US Border.

An injury forced us to stay put for a week in a little american town called Rouses Point, right at the border with Quebec.
Rouses Point

Busking the Farmer's Market in Plattsburgh
This forced stay in this unlikely town pushed us to get creative, and gave us time to explore busking opportunities in the vicinity. We quicly found out that there was little to do in Rouses Point, and little point in busking there. So we went down to Plattsburg, a relatively bigger town south of Rouses Point on Lake Champlain, and luckily enough happened to be there on the day a little farmer's market was taking place. After asking around if it was ok to set up there, I got to busk a bit with Folk Vagabond, in nice and relaxed atmosphere. We felt very much welcomed, and actually were asked whether we could come back and play every week when the market took place, which was very nice of them. But although by that point the injury situation didn't look so good, and our chances of ever leaving Rouses Point by the means of bicycles seemed bleak, we still had hope of getting out of there someday!

We then headed to Burlington for a couple of days, one of the two places with Boston during the trip where we had the time and opportunity to get some busking action! Burlington seemed very promising: the heart of the town was a busy walking street called Church Street, perfect setting for us. Too perfect to be true. After finding a very nice spot in the shade of a tree, we'd been playing for about a quarter of an hour withvery promising success when we were stopped by the dreaded police patrol. "You need a permit to play. And I don't think you're allowed to use an amp". Oh bollocks. (yes I always picture Hugh Grant standing next to me in these kind of situations). We are told that you can ask for a permit, and after having being sent back and forth up and down the street between different administrations for about an hour, we finally knocked on the right door, at Church Street n°2. There we are nicely told that we have to come back at noon to pass an audition. We comply and do so next day. At the end of our audition song, the two shrews officiating as judges and who told us to come and  audition the day before looked at each other before finally telling us that they no longer can deliver permits for people just passing through for a short period of time...

Busking in Burlington
Undeterred and determined to busk, we decided to go on a search for a busking spot outside of Church Street, and we did find a beautiful spot in the end, on the promenade by Lake Champlain. Actually on the most beautiful busking settings I've ever played, especially at sunset!

Burlington Promenade, Beautiful Busking Setting!

Eventually we left Rouses Point and cycled back down to Burlington. Being 10 days behind on schedule and wanting to make sure we would see New York, we decided to drive down to Boston from there, having figured out how to fit all of our stuff in the rented SUV!

In Boston we got round to do a bit of busking too for a couple of days, downtown in the walking area around Summer Street, Winter Street and Washington Street. Busking there was ok, nothing extraordinary, but at least the cops didn't seem to mind or bother us. Well, on the second day I was doing a Folk Vagabond set in Winter Street when a cop stopeed me to tell me it wasn't allowed here. I told him I was kind of surprised, given that dozens of other policemen and police cars had passed us by in the last couple of days and none had anything! Funny thing is he seemed kind of surprised and taken  abck by that. That's when he told me that basically this was his precinct or something like that, and that he had been away and just came back that afternoon.I said ok. Just as he was walking away he turned around and said I could go on, what I was doing was nice and that so far, there hadn't been any complaints or anything, but that if he did receive any he would have to give me a ticket... Not quite sure what to do with that I did a couple more songs and then wrapped it up for the day, I was almost done anyways and it was getting late. So all in all downtown Boston seemed pretty relaxed for busking.

We did also try to busk a bit in Cambridge, but we couldn't quite find the right spot that day, between the street noise, the burning sun and heavy wind. I did play a bit of Folk Vagabond in a little parc though and had a very nice time there. I actually got a priceless  souvenir out of it: someone gave a sticker with the following words handwritten on it: "Keep it up, you are amazing". This motto I know keep on my guitar Tanguie, and I try to remember it during hard times, when I'm maybe  feeling a bit blue about what I am doing.

We didn't have much time to try other spots in Boston, from what we gathered a popular busking spot is Quincy Market, but there is an audition system with permits going on there as well, only held once a year during April if I remember correctly. So we didn't bother.

After Boston we cycled all the way down to New York and busked a couple of time along the way, however we didn't get round to busking in the Big Apple as we arrived there shortly before having to head back home, and we decided to spend the couple of days we had visiting and enjoying the city. But there will definetly be a next time! Meanwhile, I'll try and post a video from the cycling trip soon!

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