#44. Alberta and NE 21st Ave. Jul 16, 2016 - 8:17 pm

I’m not sure why I returned to this spot again so soon. Maybe it’s just because the last show was pretty fun. Or maybe it’s because it’s close to the barbecue I attended earlier in the evening.

Or maybe I just felt like it. I’m allowed! I’ve been traveling for The Day Job™ and for family obligations, so this was my first chance to play out in a while. I walked past a man on the corner who was busking with a guitar, which is the kind of thing that sometimes troubles me. You see, I’m just playing music for fun, while he’s trying to make a living. But I set up far enough away from him that we weren’t overlapping or competing for the same audience.

With my benches and my various instruments in their proper places, I began to play. To no one. But that’s how just about every show starts. You can tweet, you can text your friends, but the truth is, most people aren’t going to show up at all, let alone the time you start.

Eventually I had a little crowd off to the side, in my peripheral vision–hardly anyone stands or sits directly in front. Occasionally even two crowds, on either side, each far from front and center.

As dusk fell, and the tiny crowds dispersed for the last time, the musician I’d seen earlier came riding by on his bicycle. Typically other musicians just nod an acknowledgment as they pass, and maybe give a thumbs-up. Sometimes they stop and listen a while. But on some rare occasions, they want to yell at me for encroaching on their turf. As I said, I try to stay out of the way of working musicians, but I may not always be seen that way by said working musicians–especially if they’re having a bad day in the collection bucket.

To my delight, the man dismounted and parked his bike, and simply sat down to listen. It was just the two of us now, and we talked a little between songs about street music and the challenge of playing only original music while busking (which he also does). He rather enjoyed my stuff, and then at my request, he played a few songs of his own, and the mutual admiration society was begun.

As I called it a night, he asked if I needed a place to stay, because he was currently at a “hippie flophouse” and there was room for me. I thanked him but demurred, and thanked him also for hanging around and doing some street rock with me.

He rode off as I finished packing, and I soon headed into the night as well.

Map Link

#43. Alberta and NE 21st Ave. Jun 21, 2016 - 8:07 pm

Some old friends were in town for a show at The Know on Alberta, which is so close to one of my favorite spots to play that I couldn’t pass up the chance to play for them before the show. Whether they wanted to see it or not!

And so on this fine summer solstice, I headed over to ye olde spotte on the sidewalk in front of the upholsterer. While I was setting up, a man stopped to ask about my drum kit, saying he was interested in doing something like that. I told him he could see it in action in a few minutes, but as determined as he might be to form his own one man band, at that moment he was more determined to get some ice cream.

Not too long after he walked away, my drums were ready to go, my benches were all set up, and I began to play. A lot of people were out enjoying the mild evening–plus ice cream–and a lot of them lingered to watch the show. Some even sat on the benches!

I’ve played music on streets long enough to have spent many hours playing to no audience at all, so I’m always glad to have one, even for a minute or two here and there. Tonight it was more than half of the time, and I think I got at least a little applause after every song.

Even better, my friends from out of town, whose band I adore, were able to take in a few songs between load-in and showtime. I’ve seen their band a bunch in the last year, so I was glad to have the chance to “entertain them back” for a change. Smiles from strangers are great, but there’s nothing like smiles on old friends.

I ended up playing just about an hour, and was getting up a pretty good head of steam when the man who had inquired earlier returned with his ice cream. (That must have been a long line!) This time, he only watched. I was drenched in sweat and running out of gas, and maybe made the whole enterprise look less appealing to him, because he asked no further questions.

But if you’re reading this, OMB-curious man, please don’t give up on this dream. Get in touch. I can help!

Map Link

#42. Mississippi and Failing May 29, 2016 - 7:03 pm

A little spur-of-the-moment for this one. After a weekend of domesticity and hanging around the neighborhood, I took my chance to head out on a Sunday evening for some last-minute weekend rocking.

I set up on the corner of Mississippi and Failing, right by the light bulb store. Benches in place, I proceeded to play. Atypically, some friends whom I had alerted actually showed up.

This is good because an audience begets an audience, in a sense: people want to see why someone stopped to watch the thing. But also, if no one else is there, at least I’m not just playing to myself.

I kept it going a while on this balmy Sunday evening, and my friends kept busy ‘gramming and talking amongst themselves; they even listened a little here and there! It was a pleasant last hurrah for all of us as the weekend drew to a close.

Map Link

#41. Alberta and NE 21st Ave. May 6, 2016 - 9:22 pm

This was one of those weeks: day job getting me down, real life stress, the usual stuff we all contend with. This show was a pure escape from all that, and not much more.

I typically text a few friends who have asked me to let them know the next time I play, but today, I just went out to play. I always tweet about shows, but so far not a single person has shown up because of that. But I didn’t care. I just played.

I can’t remember anyone stopping to listen, or anyone even slowing down as they walked by. But that was of even less concern to me than usual.

I played about an hour, then repaired to Great Notion for a cold one. The perfect end to a not great week. You shoulda been there.

#40. NE Dekum and Durham Apr 9, 2016 - 6:49 pm

After my last outing at a reliably friendly location, I wanted to play in an unfamiliar spot. I’ve had my eye on the Dekum neighborhood for a while, and this night I took that leap into the unknown, on NE Dekum near Durham.

I’ve found Portland to be mostly accommodating to street music, so I wasn’t too worried about, say, getting arrested (which has been an actual problem in other cities). But I also didn’t want to be a nuisance to people enjoying their evening outside at the bar across the street, or even the folks running the bike shop at the spot I settled on.

On arrival, I tentatively walked over to Upcycles to make sure they were closed, and indeed they had been closed for nearly an hour. But as I started to set up, a couple of guys came out of the shop–the owner and a friend–to enjoy a cool beverage on the sidewalk. I told them I intended to play some music and hoped it wouldn’t bother them, and they said to let it rip!

Thus encouraged, I began to play. My spot was across the street from , and evidently within earshot of, the Breakside brew pub where a lot of people were dining and imbibing in the summery evening air. So I wasn’t too surprised to see people getting up and coming across the street toward me.

But they didn’t actually reach me, as they were only going into the marijuana dispensary next to the bike shop, which was not only still open, but doing brisk business on a Saturday night. I thought I might get some of them on the way out, but it’s a funny thing about marijuana buyers: they don’t seem to linger once they’ve got their merchandise, they simply speed off into the night.

But a few people did hang around. Mainly Sra. Demasiado and some other friends, but also a few random baby-stroller pushers. And the guys from Upcycles stayed for the duration.

About half-way through my time, I saw in the corner of my eye a man wearing some kind of military regalia that made him look vaguely law-enforcing. And although I didn’t fear arrest, I have been asked by police to please move along and stop bothering everyone. As the man got closer, I still couldn’t tell if this was some kind of cop on a beat about to shut me down, until he walked past me…and into the dispensary!

And that’s about how the show went. At the very end, while I was packing up, a person came across the street from Breakdside, not for weed, but to tell me he really enjoyed the music, and it sounded great all the way across the street.

So after all my doubts and fears about playing in an unfamiliar location, just that one person liking it makes me think of it as a successful outing. And that’s all I need to want to play again soon.

#39. Alberta and 21st Ave. Apr 1, 2016 - 6:52 pm

First show of the year!

Last year’s weather was much more accommodating to playing music on the street, so that by April I’d already played quite a few shows. This year has been more of the usual Portland weather, and it wasn’t until actual spring time that I could dare to venture outdoors with my kit.

And because it was such a consistent location for me last year, it was natural to return to my most frequented spot to kick off the 2016 one-man-banding season. So there I found myself, on one of the first nice Friday evenings of the year, playing in front of the furniture upholsterers shop on Alberta.

I got kind of a slow start, but then, so did the passers-by. It took a while for anyone to even notice me. There I was, fully decked out, playing to empty benches. It was just like last year!

Although I’ve been practicing in the basement all through the cold rainy winter, there was definitely a little rust in the legs, and I wasn’t even sure how long those legs would hold out. But I set myself the goal of playing until sundown and happily, I managed to stay on my feet until dusk.

And a few people did hang out for a while here and there. Mostly parents with kids, even though I don’t think of my music as particularly kid-friendly. In fact, if I were aiming for non-threatening pure entertainment that’s fun for the whole family, I wouldn’t play obscure sidewalks on Friday nights, I’d be at farmers markets and such.

But an audience is an audience, and I’m grateful for the chance to bother someone with my ideas for a while. And I hope some of those kids grow up to do the same.


Note: I’m going to stop including maps in my posts, which makes them impossibly huge to read on mobile devices. Instead, I’ll just link to a map for the curious.

Buy a Shirt! Nov 20, 2015 - 2:30 pm

It's almost as big as my guitar!

It’s almost as big as my guitar!

In response to small but non-negligible demand, I have produced a limited run of “El Demasiado” T-shirts. They are available for purchase at all future performances until they run out.

But if you don’t want to rely on mere luck to find me and buy a shirt in person, I have devised a new option: purchase on the one web site which has ALL the El Demasiado merchandise, i.e., the aforementioned T-shirt. I could be speaking only of store.eldemasiado.com.

I unloaded quite a few shirts on tour, so inventory is dwindling. If you don’t want to miss out, act now!

#37. Mississippi and Failing Aug 28, 2015 - 7:45 pm

I’ll be honest: barely a week after my northeastern tour ended, I wasn’t very eager to get out onto the street to play music again. But a couple of things got me out there once again.

First, a far-flung friend was visiting Portland, and this would be his first chance to see me playing as a one man band. (He’s more accustomed to seeing me in a three-piece band.) And second, the reality of playing outdoors in Portland is, summer doesn’t last forever, so we have to take advantage of the late sundowns and dry sidewalks while we may.

And so I picked a spot that has been hit or miss, but more hit than miss, and set about playing. After about 10 minutes I was hitting my stride, and my old friend showed up. I was happy to show him a few old favorites with a new one-man-band arrangement, as well as playing some newer songs he’d never heard before.

It’s kind of a blur looking back–it’s still pretty hot out, and I definitely worked up a sweat, if I didn’t actually daze myself–but I recall quite a few other people looking on or hanging around. Even a couple of balcony perchers from the apartment across the street seemed to be enjoying the show. (Unless they were simply gathering evidence for a noise complaint!)

Soon I was sufficiently worn out, and the audience was the same. The sun called it a day, and so did I. My old friend and I walked to a nearby beer house and downed a couple while catching up on each other. In spite of my initial reservations, I was glad I went out. And before long, I’ll be out there again. Probably!


Tour Update Aug 21, 2015 - 1:12 pm

The update is: tour is over! I played a bunch of shows, planned and unplanned, throughout New York City and New England. From the subway to the Black Fly Ball in Maine, I had a blast.

It seemed impossible at first, because of the difficulty of transporting the drum kit, but in the end it all worked out. It’ll be a while yet, but I look forward to another tour in the future.

And if you reached this site by way of the stickers and calling cards I handed out along the way… Hello, new friend!

#36. McCarren Park, Brooklyn, NY Aug 18, 2015 - 7:02 pm

The last show of the tour! I found myself roadie-less for the afternoon, so I had to drag all the stuff to the show on my own. And on top of a week of one or two shows per day, in heat approaching 100°F (38°C) on each of those days–including today–I was pretty tired before I played the first note. But there’s adrenalin, and final show energy, and just being in New York, so I felt energized in spite of everything.

The show started off with a couple of setbacks. First, this was not an official show, so when I got to the building I was supposed to play near, I discovered the field had been taken over by a mass-yoga event. A string quartet accompanied a yogi with a megaphone, who presided over a field’s worth of mats and posers. They weren’t going anywhere any time soon.

The obvious thing was to play on the other side of the building, but a crew of rough-looking skateboarders was already there. Undeterred by failing to land tricks over and over (a resilience I’ve observed in most skateboarders) they showed no sign of leaving. Time for Plan C.

The one stroke of luck was that there was no baseball game happening on the field across the path. By now some people had started arriving, and I informed them of my plan to take it to center field. I headed out, set up, and played a little warmup, which drew the people over to sit in a semi-circle around me. So I started up for real.

I played for maybe a dozen old friends and a dozen more new ones. Some were fans of my old band Onion Flavored Rings, curious to see what I’m up to now; some were just intrigued by this crazy project of mine; at least one was just a random passer-by. It was reminiscent of the Worcester house show, in that I was listened to, rather than being incidental street noise, and there’s a huge difference between playing for an attentive audience and fading into (or contributing to) the din of city life.

I played 10 of the songs from my set list, but opened up the penultimate slot for a request. It’s nice when your audience knows your material enough to make a request. It’s even better when you’re still able to play the song! Then I closed with my usual closer (“Used to It”, an old crowd favorite) and hung around with pals old and new until dark, after which we repaired to a friend’s apartment for some more hanging out. It was a nice peaceful end to a sprawling, hectic tour. The next day I was on a plane back to Portland, looking forward to a little break from daily one-man-banding.

Special thanks to Erick Lyle for setting up and promoting the show in McCarren Park, not to mention lodging while we stayed in Brooklyn. And most special thanks to Erin Yanke, the aforementioned roadie for the whole of this tour.


I played just beyond these benches, in the middle of the baseball field…