See part 1 here.
We left the house in Uptown and took a trolley and bus to Canal Street, made our way to Decatur Street, which runs along the Mississippi, and headed towards Frenchman.
Mark and Max walked ahead of us carrying their guitar cases, Bea floated slightly behind, Shallon was carrying a rolled up mat, I’d wondered about it during the trolley ride and asked her what it was for.
“Acro-yoga.” She told me.
“You’ve heard of it?”
She laughed. “It’s a school of yoga that blends elements of yoga, acrobatics, and healing arts, I’m an instructor in it.”
“We’ve incorporated it into our busking act.” Max said over his shoulder,
We got to Frenchman street and scoped out a good place to busk. The sound of Jazz and revelry wafted out from the bars. We stopped at a well-lit street corner across the road from a place called the Spotted Cat. Shallon, Mark and Max caucused and decided it was a suitable spot. Shallon unfurled her yoga mat and began warming up, Mark and Max slung on their guitars and began tuning, Bea removed a textbook about quantum physics from her bag and opened it to a heavily annotated page. I stood to the side and tried to work out what to do with my arms.
Shallon lay on the mat and extended her legs, Max climbed up and entwined his legs with hers. Shallon then raised Max up further. He strummed a chord and then broke into a rendition of House of the Rising Sun by The Animals.
Mark stood nearby playing lead with preternatural fluidity. As he belted out the lyrics My father was a tailor/Sewed my new blue jeans, Max maneuvered into a lotus position. It was extraordinary.
Gawking onlookers threw handfuls of money into the guitar case. Some of them looked at me, wondering who the tall guy standing to the side crossing and uncrossing his arms was.
I remembered the reason I was there was to busk myself into relevance after my travel tales fell flat earlier. But I would have no chance if I went it alone, having a talent wasn’t enough, you had to have a gift. Either that or shamelessly leach off others’ giftedness. I had to affiliate myself with Mark, Max and Shallon. So I began trying to sing a harmony with them.
It was doomed from the start. First, I don’t know all of the words to House of the Rising Sun. Second, it is a song that doesn’t need a harmony. Third, I messed up the timing and got caught a split second behind Max. It ended up sounding like a skipping record.
Max: Now mothers,
Rupert: – mothers.
M: Tell your children,
M: Not to do what I have dooone…
R: Not to –
M: Spend your lives in sin and misery
R: In New Orle – wait, how does that part go?
M: In the House of The Rising Sun;
R: -rising sun.
Naturally, my slightly off tempo, slightly incorrect accompaniment caused the money to slow to a trickle and then stop altogether. This is not ideal when busking. When I stopped in order to better sync my harmony I noticed people began giving money again.
So that was it. I was bad for business.
Deflated, I decided to go across to the Spotted Cat for a drink. I checked my phone as I waited for my beer. There was a new text message.
“Hey brother man, we’re coming to meet you on Frenchman street, we have a great idea. Chestah.
(Matthew Chester, Couchsurfing 6:20pm)
I paid and and stepped back onto the street. A group of people had gathered around the tantric-buskers, many of them had joined in the singing as well. I thought about how in the few hours I had been in New Orleans, I had struck out on travel stories, musicianship and busking. Taking a sip of my beer I wondered if my host’s ‘great idea’ would halt my inferiority spiral.
As I stood by the curb trying to work out what the ‘great idea’ could be a truck pulled up beside me. The passenger side window rolled down and the driver leaned forward. “What’s up brother man, you Rupert?” I nodded, wondering how he guessed it so quickly. “Awesome. I’m Matt, one of your hosts, but call me Chestah.”
I peered in and said hello. “Jump in the back,” Chestah thumbed at the truck’s tray. I clumsily hoisted myself onboard; two people were already in there.
A guy wearing an Australian Rules football jersey put his hand out, “Hey bro, I’m Marc, another host.” He indicated to the truck’s other occupant, “This is Sofie, she’s also staying with us. She’s from Denmark.”
I said hello and then asked. “So, Matt said something about a ‘great idea’?”
“Tay-toos!” cried Sofie in her Danish accent.
I hesitated. Then I looked over at the buskers. Mark was ripping into the bridge on his acoustic. The crowd was shouting and dancing.
I turned it over in my mind. Tay-toos? Great idea? Well, I reasoned, drastic times do call for drastic measures and a tattoo would surely distinguish me in this distinct city. After all, practically nobody has a tattoo. I turned back to Sofie and Marc and nodded, “Yes.”
“Hooray,” Sofie cheered, Marc banged on the window dividing us from the driver; Chestah flicked the hang loose sign and the truck pulled away. As we drove down Frenchman street I heard the buskers’ audience belt lyrics into the New Orleans night sky.
It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy.
And god. I know. I’m one.
Part 3 coming soon…