“We got cotton, silk and satin / In styles Anglo, Dutch and Latin / When you sail don’t take that chance / Wearing nothing beneath your pants / Trust… Silver’s Long Johns! *They breathe!*”
Whoops, I didn’t see you there! You caught me singing a seventeenth-century Jingle from the buccaneering times. Welcome to Bluegrass n’ Stuff!
One well known fact about the Pacific Garden Mall is that it’s a breeding ground for street musicians. A wide variety of music can be heard on Pacific Avenue: Mexican Mariachi, Japanese shamisen, multi-genre bongo-beating, crap, and of course, bluegrass! You don’t need a permit to busk and unless somebody complains, the police won’t mind…unless you throw something at them. The mall is intimate, yet long enough that you can have at least a dozen musicians playing on the mall the mall and the sounds won’t intermingle with each other, causing a breach in the space-time continuum. If you’ve got a smidgen of good-soundingness, you can attract a sizable crowd and make just-as-much/per hour as a criminal lawyer—the only downside being you don’t get to sit in a courtroom all day (and of course, divvy up the booty ‘n spoils with your band mates).
Another jovial thing about the mall is that you’ve got characters. Interesting folks that make each day playing on the mall unique and special. We, The Abbott Family Band, have been playing on the mall for at least 96 months and today, will relay to you the Top 5 Most Memorable Mall Moments!
#6 Bombs away! – March 2007
On the mall, there are musical “hot spots.” Locations where a lot of people tend to converge. Prime busking territory. One hot spot is the Palomar hotel. Those waiting for a table at the hotel’s restaurant usually wait outside, which means you’ve got yourself a guaranteed crowd! However, the downside is it’s a risky spot since all the residents’ windows are right over the street. Several times, we played without problem. One day however, we heard this *ker-splash* and found a pool of water a yard away from our feet. No further action was taken after that, even though we kept playing. That was the only time when we had a liquid thrown at us and we sure were lucky it just water. Another time, a resident of the hotel kept slamming their window in hopes to scare us away. Our banjo was an equal match for any slamming window and when he/she realized we weren’t budging, he/she called the cops, who politely suggested that we move. Again, we consider ourselves lucky as other street musicians have had oranges and indecent explanative-scribbled papers thrown from the windows at them.
#5 Kentakki Baruugarasu* – June 2007
As we were ripping through Lonesome Road Blues, I noticed that a bunch of cameramen came by following a Japanese woman with a giant candy cane. She came up in front of us and started dancing a bit. It was no doubt that she was the host of a Japanese television show. Even though we spoke different languages, she knew the universal understanding about royalties, and therefore put in a dollar.
*For yer full disclosure, a concerned reader complained that I used the Japanese language and for some reason thought I was mocking it. Just so you, gentle readers, don’t think I’m making fun of the Japanese language, you should know that “Kentakki” is THE official way “Kentucky” is written in Japanese. It is typed it out in Romaji (the official Romanized text used to spell Japanese words without characters) so you are able to read it. Being as I can speak an honest amount of Japanese, I know that “baruugarasu” is the closest word that would be used to say/write it. “Kantori” (Country) is usually used, but this is Bluegrass, not Country music! Now that y’all know, for Christ’s Sake, don’t be offended!
#4 Sax Retaliation – August 2005
When you’re downtown playing, you’re almost guaranteed to have a loud automobile go by, sometimes an ambulance or a muffler-less car. Usually, it’s scrawny guys on Harleys. Well, we had a good audience going and one of the audient was a saxophoneist. He was not a big fan of blazing choppers and when a flock of Harleys went by, he assembled his sax and chased after them, blowing at full lung.
#3 Brando’s Buddy – Christmas 2004
We were drawing a nice sized crowd until a pickled man steeped in sherry came by with a newspaper. He read it and exclaimed, “Hey! Marlon Brando died! Augh, he’s my hero! *pointing to the picture in the newspaper* Look how young he looks!” I had never seen Marlon Brando before, but I hear he was a movie star made famous by his unforgettable work in the film HogFodder (or something like it).
Anyway, he came up to us as we were playing and repeated that. Then he followed up by walking up to almost every single listener (who remained) and repeated the routine. Ma had a hard time containing laughter as the absurdity reached a climax when all the Harley Hogs (from the Starbucks across the street) were loudly rumbling off as Marlo’s biggest fan was holding the newspaper above his head saying, “Hey, Marlon Brando died! Look how young he looks! He’s my hero man!” He must’ve been some actor.
#2 Sir, stay behind the yellow safety line! – January 2006
Nighttime is when crowds are at a minimum. However, one night, we had one loyal fan who kinda looked like Abraham Lincoln (except with a face at bit more round like an apple pie. . . wearing Robocop glasses). They say Bluegrass has depth and gravity. If that’s true, then we were really sucking him in . . . close. A little too close. Freakily close. I mean, if you stuck your hand right out in front, you’d be fondling his beard. That was OK, though it would’ve been better if he was partially transparent so the audience could see us. However, as soon as we finished a song, he would start talking immediately. Then he requested Foggy Mountain Breakdown. If he didn’t request it again after we told him that we forgot the words, it would’ve been no big deal. But in the period of 15 minutes, he requested it 6 times. He finally stopped after our friend playing with us said, “Christ! We don’t play that song!” Before he left, he was nice enough to leave some chocolate with us. Brother Luke was the only one who had the courage to take a bite. (Surprisingly, he wasn’t violently ill after!)
#1 Bluegrass Jester – Present
Most times we play on the mall, people get in the dancing mood, especially toddlers. It can be a little scary when the grownups dance, but if they don’t smash bottles, it’s usually safe. Moreover, unless they start clapping, dancers really improve the mall performing experience for the audience. They would even deserve a cut of the profit for their effort, if we didn’t already give all our proceeds to charity. — No, we don’t give it to the ‘Strings & Picks Foundation: Giving strings to needy Abbotts everywhere’! Anyway, all the quirky dancers and folks we run into over the years was no match for the presence of a most unique . . . interpretive dancer.
As we were playing, this young man sidled up to us wearing a skirt. No, not a manly kind like the Japanese or Scots get away with. This was a bright orange, very “flowy” skirt. Sure, big whoop. This is Santa Cruz! However, it got more interesting when he stood on his head, which made the skirt drop, revealing purple bloomer-like shorts. Then he took off the skirt and stood on his head again. After, he descended back down to the ground, but then stood on his head again. Then, he got on his feet and took off his shorts. “Whoa boy!” we thought, as he donned bright, neon tie-dye undergarments. Then he, you guessed it, stood on his head again.
We later saw him at the beach where he asked Pa for some “medical cannabis” for his friend who was ill. Cannabis, for all you who don’t have a plant reference book, is of course, chillums/funk/funny stuff/giggle weed/paca lolo/etc. We didn’t have any of course.
Ahh, good times, gooood times. Despite all the wacky folks that find their way into your performance, p