Move Over Buskers Of Bangor…It Is Illegal,Yet.

scan0074                     During my travels to Boston,Manhattan, Austin Texas and even the Canadian city of Montreal one of the things that always fascinated me was being stopped in whatever tracks I was in by the sounds,sights and often both at once of street performers,or buskers. Even in the city of Portland,the largest in the state of Maine,they can be found. That is where the photo of the Gypsy violinist seen here was taken nearly a decade ago in front of a movie theater complex in the downtown area of the city during that summers Pride festival-if I recall.  Of course the very essence of life itself represents a musical event. That’s something a lot of us learn as children. The tapping of our feet as we stroll the sidewalk,trains rolling down the tracks and of course the birds and insects singing and humming create a unique symphony of melodic and rhythmic cadences almost everyone one travels to. When I walk along the streets of Bangor,its difficult to me to hear the train the runs through town through its own silencers. The sound of the the cars and motorbikes in traffic,along with their horns create such a cacophony its hard to hear the birds singing. And walking from street to street on the average day? No guitars,no pianos,not even the sound of a young person playing two metal garbage cans with drumsticks. Bangor Maine is one of the many towns and cities across the United States Of America-with the first amendment of its constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech,that long ago outlawed busking/street musicians of any sort in its downtown area.




Of course Bangor is not a non musical city. There have always been the Bangor Civil Center where many concerts have been held. And within the past decade or so Bangor has hosted both the American (originally International) Folk Festival on the last weekend of August -as well as a special summer concert series that has already attracted rock acts such as Pat Benatar,Sting and this coming year Arcade Fire. And along with the here today,gone tomorrow bars and grills that on occasion feature live local musical performers?  The musical scene of the area I live in is very low and comparatively spotty at best. It might have something to do with local economy,culture and a mild level of denial. A local culture clash in the state of Maine has resulted in Bangor being often considered the capital of a rather desolate and wilderness oriented northern area of the state-whose farthest regions contain villages that are given numbers instead of formal names. Being something of a last outpost,Bangor shares much of this regions pride in self reliance and traditional values. In all honesty they tend to appreciate perspiration over inspiration. And as I’ve grown up,its become apparent that only a minute segment of the local population view the whole idea of street musicians with anything close to a high regard.

One thing that such an environment can provide,especially for a young person growing up,is space to develop a vast imagination. Entering into adolescence during the mid 1990’s,that time where many psychoanalyst’s say many people’s strong interest in music begins,the internet was very much an internal networking device. And only available in segments of the state of Maine. Therefore ones perceptions of music either came from what tiny degree of written musical press could be found or,if you were as lucky as my family were to be able to travel to areas such as Waterville,Portland or even close  by at the University Of Maine where,every so often the occasional jazz soul and in an extremely rare case (such as Queen Latifah’s 1991 show on the UMO campus) hip-hop concerts.  That all declined as the most 9/11 economy hit the local area with particular strength. And both the Folk Festival and the Bangor Concert Series of recent years tend to be met with the same attitude as buskers-often frowned upon for their perceived noise and crowding. So in between all this,I became inclined towards finding friends with even the smallest musical inclination-either as listeners or being musicians themselves. Yet somehow never getting up the courage to tell them my own personal dreams of a musical Bangor. Which of course all came to a head when I was 19 years old and went to see a movie with my family at the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.


The film in question was Dancer In The Dark,a Danish picture starring Islandic singer/songwriter Bjork with American actor David Morse,who co-starred in a Stephen King television movie my mother and I were extras in called The Langoliers. This was the story of an immigrant factory worker ending up in the middle of a financial conspiracy resulting in her committing a murder-and by films end receiving the death penalty for her crime. It was an abstract yet deeply disturbing contemporary movie musical-using the medium to create uneasiness as opposed to the usual unrestrained joy associated with the genre. One scene in the film which seemed to reflect how I viewed my future involved a number called “Cvalda”,in which Bjork’s character in the film imagines the monotonous industrial back round of her job as some steam punk styled Broadway production number-complete with harmonious chorus lines.

This idea of music being something isolated inside a building,or even inside merely ones imagination itself strongly shaped the person that I’ve become. In some ways,some creative constructs such as photography and paintings have come from that which contain their share of beauty here and there.  On the other hand,I’ve always had a somewhat secret sadness within me that,even for someone who wears their heart on their sleeve,I have trouble verbally articulating. I’ve come to live with the notion that I’m in a community that isn’t of course lacking in music,but has little music from anywhere particularly deep within its soul. And frankly? The lack of buskers-whether it be street musicians,mimes and jugglers create a general sense of dreariness on occasion. And that’s not something one desires where the winters are so long and icy. If someone were ever to ask me to paint the streets of the town in which I’ve spent the majority of my life,in fact? One would see within the completed painting an impression of the same streets filled with street performers of all kinds-delighting people of all ages with their talents and the sounds they create. In the end what is uppermost in my mind is that even if music is played there,a city without its own music is hardly a city at all.







1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, Funk, Jazz, Maine, Music, Soul, Street Musicians

One response to “Move Over Buskers Of Bangor…It Is Illegal,Yet.

  1. I love and agree with the point about how buskers, street performers, bring and add so much vitality to an area. As I observed when New Funk Generation played, it’s almost as if they transformed the space into something different. And with all the big money gentrification currently going on in San Francsisco, making the city more unaffordable for working class people section by section, the music and funk of groups like the New Funk Generation and many other street musicians is a reminder of the voices of “Everyday People” as Sly said. It saddens me to see it at a loss in Maine and It causes me to wonder if we don’t need more of it in our neck of the woods as wel. But your major point has much poignancy, “a city without it’s own music is hardly a city at all”, few have said it better!

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