The city seems to be pretty strict in enforcing the requirement for a busking license—I’ve known pretty good musicians who have been shut down—except, it seems, in Gastown, where I moved in early 2010. The “musicians” who play outside my building are enough to induce a trance, or the development of OCD.
In 2010-11, there was a rhythmless saxophone player who repeated a couple of be-bop riffs ad nauseam. His utter lack of meter was admittedly sort of fascinating: way, way beyond rubato, the beat seemed truly random, arguably unreproducible by anyone who can count.
In 2011-12, we had an accordion player—he seems to have graduated to other areas of the downtown; I’ve passed him on Granville and near Waterfront Station recently—who played the same couple of tunes over and over and over.
In summer 2013, there have been two regulars.
First is a fellow on clarinet who plays short phrases from “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” (What would the Duke think of that?) He seems also to have a vague recollection of some Gershwin. I think. It’s hard to tell. “Noodling” is a good word for it. And again, if there is a meter, I cannot detect it.
Worse, if that is even possible (and oh yes, it is), there a guy with a recorder who repeats the same five-note figure for hours. Hours. Five notes. I am not kidding. The busking conditions and guidelines state that there is a one-hour maximum: “After 60 minutes, you must move to a different location at least one full block away.” They should add a maximum for the number of identical phrases played within a two-minute span.
Obviously at least some of these people are mentally challenged; I’ve approached the recorder player, with plans to offer him twenty dollars if he will pack up for the night, and have received nonsensical responses. His loss. But having to close my windows or play Nine Inch Nails in order to drown out this sanity-challenging stuff is not fun, and has become less so. Maybe these characters do have licenses; but I doubt it, and they don’t seem to be on display, as is required by the city.
I don’t think I’ve once heard anyone decent play on the street here. I’m not sure there’s anything to be done other than try to enjoy what might eventually be remembered as one of the last quirky things about the neighbourhood. At least we don’t have to listen to aspiring beat-boxers, I guess.