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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
alanabit I need some honest advice (91* d) RE: I need some honest advice 28 Feb 15

Thank-you everyone who responded. I asked for honest advice and I certainly got it! Inevitably, a lot of people disliked everything about the video and about me. Bruce Murdoch, one of the toughest and most experienced performers here, who has also been down the busking road, once wrote here in a thread something which he had heard early on in his career: "If you can't handle rejection, you are in the wrong business."
There are people here who feel that I suck as a guitarist, singer, songwriter and entertainer and feel they would stay well clear of any stage which I occupied. It is their prerogative and I respect their decision. In particular I appreciate Gargoyle's comments. He doesn't offer his services as a lifestyle guru to everyone! And as he has written elsewhere that he regards busking as begging, I would be very disappointed if I appealed to his set of values.
This is what he regards as "begging".
Indeed rejection is part of the game. I get it every time I play on the street. My thirty-six years of doing this for a living have also included busking the bars of the Oude Binnenweg in Rotterdam, terraces in Switzerland, festival stages, regular TV in the late nineties and the usual round of clubs, pubs and private functions. Meeting lots of people who do not immediately like you and working out strategies to overcome their indifference or antipathy is what the job is all about. And, of course, you fail a lot. Probably the most hated phrase among teachers over here is: "Ich kann das nicht!" ("I can't do that!") I have been a teacher too and I would always amend that to, "You have not mastered it yet." I apply the same philosophy to my work. When you see that swagger and physical presence of Pete Morton, remember he was not born with it. If you ask him, he will tell you where he learned it and it didn't come cheap!
Forming your stage persona comes out of risking yourself in all sorts of situations where people are likely to reject you. I found one that seemed to work for me over here and indeed everywhere. For a long time, I had worried (quite unnecessarily) that the audience really did think that I was as nave and slow witted as I was pretending to be. It finally clicked for me in Linz in 1988. I realised that they knew very well that I was not nave. When you are pulling huge crowds and holding them for night after night they know very well that it isn't a fluke. They are not stupid and they don't think you are. The reason it works is because both you and the audience know that you are pretending. This was a breakthrough for me, because I realised that I did not have to be clever, original or witty to get them on my side. The key to it is trust. The audience in Linz trusted me to lead them through an hour or so of silly patter and chorus singing. To some, that makes me "a buffoon"... Well so be it.
It is the same for all performers. It does not matter how clever, talented, witty or original they are, if you don't trust them, you can not possibly find them funny or be interested in what they have to say. I have been told several times here that I am not funny and that my material is rubbish. If you don't like it, of course it is.
Fortunately, the Mudcatters, whom I hold in the highest esteem, take a different view. So while my material is rubbish, trite and unfunny to some, there are artists of the calibre of Pat Cooksey, Jed Marum, Seamus Kennedy, Mike Campbell, Jerry Rasmussen, Bruce Murdoch, George Papavgeris, Big Al Whittle and others who have expressed a different view.
The first thing to say about the video is that I live and work in Germany. Most people speak or understand some English. Very few of them have English to a level that they can understand everything. You can get the audience to sing a simple drinking song with you, but if you try to use the sophisticated wordplay of Tom Lehrer (whom I adore) you are going over their heads. That isn't "cool", it's arrogant. Quite a lot of the people who don't like what I do could probably play the ass off me, but they couldn't do it on a German stage. I have to gauge what they can understand and pitch it at that level. This isn't patronising it's respectful. I speak some German on stage because I am talking to Germans. This is not an affectation and by the way George Papavgeris (who is too modest to tell you this himself) could and would do exactly the same!
I have gigged in the UK in recent years and the gigs have always gone well. I had a lovely evening at St.Albans Folk Club (run by John Breeze) a few years ago. There was another one for Don T in Maidenhead a few days later. There was a short tour with the brilliant Sascha Loss a couple of years ago in which every gig went well. For me (even if it is rubbish!) that means the material works.
So this video cut has failed. It was picked from the footage which we had available and I set out to show a prospective booker that I could get an audience to sing, laugh and listen. That is what happened at the gigs. I still think that is the right message to get across. We tried to get the video to say that. It appears that we didn't. You only have three minutes, so I felt we had to use only excerpts of songs and patter. Of course, if you don't like what I do, it won't matter how I package it, it will fail. However, I am grateful for all the feedback which you have given me and naturally I will be trying to apply the lessons in presentation for the next video cut when the footage becomes available.
Thank-you everyone!

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