The Great Indian New Years Busking Dance Party!

Well, I sure never expected the year to end this way, but what a way to end it! Yesterday I let a guy named “Jetpack” take the mic for one song and allowed a second. It’s always a potentially dodgy thing to let someone take the mic, but I think the smooth sailing of Jetpack put me in the right mood. The New Years spirit afloat, me thinks. Several times while busking, I’ve had groups of South-East Asian folk approaching me either to ask if I can play an Indian song, or whether someone can sing a song a Capella. One time I hooked up someones phone to my busking amp so they could dance to Indian music. It’s always been a good experience. It’s not like the risk of giving a rapper a mic, where they could spew obscenities to families walking by, or a guy who plays guitar who wants to jam with you right on the spot and you don’t know if he wants to show you up or take over. Busking is not an open mic. I’m there to make money in a short time frame and move on, and do it again. It’s kind of more of a production job, in some ways. My mood was good though when I was approached this time, with good tips having already come to me at Canada Place because of my wife’s intel. So, with all that in mind, when I group of South-East Asian folk approached me to do some a Capella singing, I let go of the mic. Was I ever glad I did!

It didn’t take long for a LOT of faces to stop and listen. After a few songs they had more people stopping to listen than I have ever had busking, so I thought why not continue. So another song, and then another singer, and then the group continued to swell. I scanned to try to find my wife in the crowd, but could not. More singers came up, and then some money was dropped into my box. There was so much smiling and joy, I just felt stopping this was the wrong thing to do. I just felt that no matter who came up at this point, I’d let them continue on, so I did. There was people standing on the rings of chairs at, and that whole area of the sidewalk was filled, but there was a space of about ten to twenty feet distance between my spot and the audience, until it closed in on my left to me because of the crosswalk.

Then, as night fell and the beautiful lights around the Pan Pacific Hotel shone, someone asked me if they could play some music off their phone so they could start a dance party. I had already made enough in tips without sequestering them, and had a few times to play guitar in between, so I said why not. Now the circle closed in close to the speaker and the dancers throttled and shot their hands into the air. When there was a stoppage of the music, you could sometimes hear and audible “ughhhhh” as if the group was collectively hit in the stomach with a body blow in a boxing match. The kids made their way into the pulsing dance circle in front. Adults were dancing with the kids. The women were dancing off to the side behind me. I corralled my gear up as best I could to avoid anyone tripping. It generally was very congenial, but I don’t speak any languages from the Indian subcontinent, so who knows.

The only time it seemed it could get weird was over who was the DJ. I had so many people eventually hooked up on bluetooth battle! Someone hooked up his phone over top of someone elses song. At one point I saw a little bit of tense looking fellow blurting stuff out at someone else. God, what if a rumble started, I thought. Well, it cooled down. I didn’t see any open alcohol in the group. To try and clear the bluetooth I just shut the speaker off at one point and restarted. I wasn’t sure what to do. Things evened out. Plus, I had not had my speaker that loud before!

As we got closer to midnight and 2023, I decided to raise the speaker up on a speaker stand I rarely bring out these days. I only brought it out tonight because the foldable stool I normally put the speaker on was going to be used by my wife to sit on as she joined me on this busking journey, a rare event. Once I got that speaker up nice and high, the sound projected even more. More dancers, cell phone selfie vids, singing. There was so much positive energy, it was just nice to be around it.

My wife showed up in shock with a couple of coffees. I gave her the quick run down of what happened and she could see some opportunity. “You should learn some Indian music” and later she mentioned I could even do a fusion. Honestly, she is right. Most of the audience when I showed up was Indian. Even if I had a handful of songs, and just played them as instrumentals, it would be great. Plus, the music was really cool. I could see some similarity between my wife’s music in Tunisia. A heavy emphasis on hand drums and percussion, often acoustic. It gives even pop music a really great feel. One fella told me that a lot of the themes are about “the struggle”, so I guess an overlap with rap.

So this probably at least three to four hundred people in this huge dance party that covered the front area of the sidewalk at the Pan Pacific hotel, but eventually I had to stop it. It went for at least three hours. Maybe in the end I could have made more money by purely busking, but I didn’t care. It was a lot of fun, but with a group this big and after midnight fell, I had to go home.

On the way home, my wife and I were talking and I said “You should become my manager”. We have toyed around with the idea of her doing my social media, but I just opted out of it entirely. I killed the initial audience at the Pan Pacific, including my wife, by playing a real downer blues tune. She wasn’t impressed at all. She wants more upbeat songs, and an overhaul in general with holiday music, etc. She’s a straight shooter. Really direct. I kind of need a shake up. I don’t dislike busking, but it’s becoming a bit of a grind. Maybe she can even help me try to find gigs.

So that was a great way to start 2023: with a huge dance party and my wife getting more involved with my music. That was a great way to send it all off!!

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