The secret of old dogs busking, and learning new tricks. 

Plague Dad is strangely organic. When I say that, I mean that I, and Frank, have been involved in many musical projects, both together and apart over the past. What makes this current iteration of our long-time music collaboration different is our dedication to playing on the street.

IE: Busking. 

Plague Dad busking in the Old Port, Portland, Maine, circa September 2021.

I personally have had the utmost respect for buskers over the years. And have been influenced by many unnamed street performers in San Francisco, Boston, Kansas City, et al. But I have never really committed to that potential for percussion performance. 

I come from a drum set background, and the idea of trying to make that mobile has always been a challenge. Much less the idea of a quick set up on the street where the stage is the side walk and not level, where we have to find the right place to set up, where my traditional drum kit is a no go. 

So I had to adapt. I have these bongos. For many years. For nearly as long as I’ve known Frank. 

I used them for my own mobile entertainment over the years. But they became the perfect mobile centerpiece. I took up wooden spoons as an instrument as well. And then Frank had this kick box bass drum. It’s heavy, but compact. And not as heavy as either of my 22” kick drums. 

I wanted to meet the spirit of what we are were trying to do. So I pared down my “kit” to those old-ass but great sounding bongos, the kick box, foot jingles and shakers. And the spoons. I’ve recently added washboard to my repertoire, too, to keep things even more mobile. 

So with that mindset, Plague Dad went all in on street performance. 

We started out in the Wharf Alley in Old Port. And started to perform on the street in a few other locations.

The feedback is so immediate: are we just entertaining enough for you to drop a dollar in the case? Or maybe even buy a 7″

I mean, how immediate is that reward? Amazing. Makes you learn and earn. Hones your skills for the idea of chaos, direct marketing in all of its best and worst forms. 

Like nothing I’ve ever experienced up to that point in musical performance. Sharpens your musical skills, your interactive skills, your commitment to play on, even when it sucks a little bit, (or a lot) and there is no money to be had at the moment … but maybe. A little later, maybe, we work the crowd better. Maybe. Perform better. Song select better. Maybe. Read the room.

It all adds up to the best way to rehearse for pay, and create a fully realized sound that evolved on the street one dollar at time. 

Support your local busker. Even if you might not truly dig that person’s particular sound — we were terrible once, too. Hell, a lot of folks might say we still are … 

—-mig

Next up: How did Cops On Acid become the song it is now.