Monday, July 1, 2013

Street Performers: Part I

Amazing Grace is a moving song no matter who performs it. But Rhoda Weaver filled the entire street with her loud, stirring voice.

    Asheville is a town full of artists, but not all artists present their work in a studio or music hall. Especially when the weather is nice, on any given street corner there is at least one performer sharing their particular form of art with people traversing downtown. Or sometimes simply performing for the local critters. 
    Many of these artists are “traditional” performers: musicians. But these musicians are far from traditional. Each has a personal flair, from belting out Amazing Grace in a doorway (above), to creating music with a washboard and a fork (below).

The epitome of a Bohemian band, the Carolina Catskin's hair was almost more fascinating than their music.

    Musicians staking out the busiest street corners attract large crowds that stand together entranced for a song or two. These people group together as strangers, and go their separate ways strangers again, but for those one or two songs they’re made acquaintances through this shared musical world the performers create. Every time I stop with a crowd to listen, I always end up chatting with someone for a minute about how good the music is. I don’t ever know the person, but the music creates a sense of camaraderie. 
    Other artists find more peaceful alleys to practice new songs or to simply play without the strain of performing for an audience (or making money.) These musicians may be harder to see, but their poignant notes follow you through otherwise quiet streets. One evening I was walking back to my car after an evening of photographing performers, when I came across a young lady singing as she played guitar. She was sitting in a doorway at the far end of Wall Street halfway through writing a new song. Shy as she was, she did not want me to take her picture, but she let me sit and listen a while, captivated. Even as I walked away, her beautiful faint notes trailed after me and played through my head the rest of the evening.

I have seen Peter Levitov play his didgeridoo by the flat iron monument many an evening. 

Apparently this sax man played a mean enough sax that he paid for a trip to Europe last summer from his earnings. 

This group, self-titled the Stillwater Hobos, is one of my favorites I've seen so far. From their interesting taste in pants, to their catchy Irish tunes, these guys quickly caught my attention. And their exuberance for the performance kept me there through four songs, even though I was on my way to work.