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Into the Underground

Life has a way of surprising you around every corner. With changes both for better and worse, the world we live in and our individual lives are in a constant state of unpredictability. Each time something shifts we are forced to adapt and learn, push forward and make the best of it. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces, and sometimes we rise above it.

After the success of the last set of busker performances in the upstairs market, we were feeling pretty good about the next one. Practicing away, we were excited to gather with our newfound busking community once again. But, in the weeks that follow we were presented with some news of changes to the market setup and informed that there just wasn’t the right atmosphere for us to perform this month. This news was greeted with upset and after a couple of failed attempts to secure a spot upstairs, we withdrew our efforts.

The shop owner, who had taken such pride and care for his buskers over the last few weeks, wasn't going to let us down. He stepped in, describing with grandeur, his plan to host us in the basement of the building, right next to his shop. I admit I was still too hung up on being removed from the market to give his idea the excitement it deserved, but Bops was on board so I knew I’d have to come around quickly.

The night of, we were excited. We had our setlist planned and practiced, and I picked my outfit with care. We rolled up and the lights downstairs were dimmed. There was a small amp set up waiting for us and despite the cold, it felt cozy and warm.

Nobody showed up at first and we played our set for an audience of two. And we soared. The sound was great. Being tucked away in the cozy basement allowed for a different ambiance, far from the busy bars and noisy patios that we were used to.

It was intimate and a great opportunity to debut something new. Eventually, we were joined by Solaria (Sage), who is an amazing vocalist and songwriter. Bops hopped on bass and I played the cajon and we jammed together, for the first time in a long time.

To merge artists in such a small space brought forth a beautifully balanced sound. Sage’s throaty and heartfelt voice and simple chords melded with Bops’s groovy bass and I held it down with a simple beat. It was such an uplifting experience. At this time a small family was sitting in the corner enjoying hot chocolate and taking in the atmosphere.

Emily, a local artist and musician joined us later, after the upstairs market had closed down. Her sweet voice filled the room and captivated those who were down there at the time.

The little venue never once got crowded, nor did many folks stay for long. But that didn’t seem to be the point anymore. This had become a place for buskers to explore their own sound, to get comfortable playing together and to make new connections

The second night we went back for round two. I was lucky enough to have my parents come watch and I was able to show them a few of our new songs. A few more people than last time trickled in and some stayed for a song or two. Cookies from the coffee shop sold well and it was nice to see happy holiday goers come and go. Even though it wasn’t really a holiday event, I felt like it still brought forth the holiday spirit. It was warm and welcoming. The shop owner, William, always made sure everyone had a warm drink and all the snacks we could dream of. He watched each performer attentively, like a proud parent and provided each of us with warm feedback.

As the evening grew old, Sage, after an amazing set, popped in the corner and started to write a new song. Emily brought a friend and they both played a few songs each followed by one together. Bops took some time to chat with friends and play cajon and bass for other buskers. I found myself keeping to the edges of the room, observing, and people watching. William would go from person to person, having quiet conversations with each. He was excellent at making everyone feel included and heard.

While the little busker showcase may be done, for now, the experience stays with me as a resounding reminder of the support one can find within their community. Music brings us together, and from the shadows, light and life is brought forth. While this wasn’t a crowded venue filled with screaming fans, it was something meaningful. A moment to cherish and look back upon. A beginning to newfound friendships. I am thankful for these small opportunities where artists of all kinds can share their songs and be received with kindness. Often we react with anger or surprise to change, but if we move forwards with an open mind, positivity will follow.

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