I like street entertainment. You know, the enterprising venture of displaying talent, any talent, on the street to make a buck.
Nonthreatening homeless types ham it up for locals and tourists on the Main Avenue stage with juggling, magic and three-card Monte to avoid getting a real job. Then theres busking, which is just getting a foothold here in Durango.
Busking is the practice of street entertainment, specifically entertainment of the musical variety. Throw down a hat or an open instrument case and start playing, hoping youre good enough to influence a passerby to dig into a pocket, purse or wallet and pull out some coin to drop into your kitty. I wouldnt call it the best way to make a living. Busking, although not illegal in Durango, still has some simple rules, which Durango Police Chief David Felice recently explained to me in an e-mail.
Busking is cool as long as the noise ordinance isnt violated, entertainers arent blocking traffic or interfering with a business, its not done during normal sleeping hours and no one is complaining. You also shouldnt aggressively panhandle or disturb the peace. Its pretty simple really; you can play music on the street; just dont be an obnoxious jerk and all will be cool.
The etiquette of busking applies to only a few, as Main Avenue is a far cry from a New York City subway or even the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Our buskers are limited to the warmer months when transient people come to town to butcher bluegrass music in public. The annual Durango Bluegrass Meltdown also ups the busking talent each April on the Magpies patio, and youve got that old homeless guy here in the summer who plays fiddle while perched on a Main Avenue bench.
But there are stories of busker success. Since 2009, a pair of brothers have busked around town, gaining enough momentum to land a few gigs including an invite to play last months Durango Bluegrass Meltdown fundraiser at Durango Brewing Co. Brothers Dillon and Jantzen Wray started their Durango busking career when banjo-playing Jantzen moved here to study outdoor education at Fort Lewis College. Dillon soon followed, and they quickly formed the band Allgood.
After a year of playing and recording an EP, the brothers picked up Stephen Sellers on bass, renamed themselves Old North State, recorded an album, continued to busk regularly and started booking shows around town and the region.
The Wray brothers freely admit that theyve based their sound off their favorite band, The Avett Brothers. Its a knock- off, but their sincerity, as well as being fans of the Avett Brothers for the last decade, forgives the similarities and lends some legitimacy. Their dedication to music in general, however, is unquestioned. Theres little ego, bragging or an idea that theyre reinventing the wheel and will be the next big thing. All bands should let that attitude dictate their actions, on and off stage.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.