Washington Square Park doesn’t have much in the way of grass. And as Dave Chappelle pointed out to the country in his Half Baked vehicle, not even the weed for sale there resembles grass by any measure. But Greenwich Village’s 10-acre concrete park is my home away from home, and what it lacks in rich greenery it more than makes up for with no-nonsense freak shows and incredible musical interludes. Plus, it’s a great place to lay down and shake off that hangover.
Between the Wang near-perfect game, the Kentucky Derby and the Mayweather/De La Hoya fight, Saturday made for a great day of sports.
But Sunday provided me a fantastic musical backdrop for lazily loafing around the park and watching performances by so many different, talented musicians. The always-enjoyable BuzzUniverse headlined my day of great music in the park (no Chris Barron sitting in for Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong this time), but the amateur acts also entertained me to no end while I finished reading a great book. Read on to stroll through the park with me and check out what all went down…
I entered my usual way, through the questionable chessboard area on the southwest side of the park. No matter how many times I roll through there, and no matter how gentrified the city has become, I still fear for my life as I walk in this way. Scary hobos make for great chess players? Who knew? Well, you never know which of these crazies has fashioned a shiv out of a rook — and when you read about that happening one day, you’ll know I’m not nuts. So I passed them and blew right by the ditchweed dealers, turning off my iPod to begin hearing who’s playing what.
My first entertainer was this bassist, playing by the statue that almost always features someone on the bass — there’s an upright bassist that stands there and blows me away on occasion, though this guy looked like the exact opposite of this man. As I approached to his version of Crazy Train, he stopped to ask me for some financial support. I gave him a buck and listened to the rest before walking further east towards the center of the park.
I forgot they got the fountain up and running again. I’m not sure whether they did this to kick out all the street performers who use that spot. It’s entirely plausible that’s the real reason. Either way, it’s always nice to see streams of water gush out and erupt. I’m so easily entertained.
Looking left, I realized that Bronze Statue Man was in the house. He looked like Chuck Norris up close, and I’m not just throwing Norris’ name in here to capitalize on the Norris-loving trend. For a second I thought it was an out-of-work Chuck changing jobs. This guy didn’t exactly stand still like a statue all day, choosing instead to use his lasso and make robotic noises with his mouth as he made robotic moves with his body. Clever, but not the kind of public statue-ing I’m used to. I give him an A for aesthetics, but a B- for the total package.
But Bronze Statue Man brought me close to Fake Coltrane, who I’ve sat and listened to in the park on at least four occasions. His drummer’s been different every time, and the guy on the drums here only played the last song or two while the regular beat-keeper schmoozed with the white NYU kids that “dug it,” but Fake Coltrane is a serious talent. I can sit and listen to him all day long.
Here’s a brief sample, though not his best work:
From there I moved on to The Folkies, the same crew of guitarists in their 50s and 60s that I see just about every week. It must be awesome to know what you’re doing on every single weekend day, though I’m sure there’s some tension with their respective spouses (I think from now on the plural of “spouse” should be “spice”). These guys rock the Creedence, they rock Neil Young, they rock the Peter Paul & Mary, they rock anything before 1979 I think. “Learn any new old songs?,” they often ask each other as they congregate, usually to heaps of laughter. I’m not even joking, these people make me look forward to being older one day. I’m not even sure why.
The Folkies broke up into two groups yesterday, a divide I can only hope is temporary. A younger gentleman led this crew, and my favorite character — the guy with the sicky sicky combover and the tambourine — added his baritone to this group. Maybe they combined forces, or maybe there’s a rift on song selection. All I know is, the outfit below had a much larger crowd workin’.
Ejected from their spot within the non-operational fountain, the Acrobatic Comedy Twins still brought their best to the park. These guys seriously make hundreds and hundreds of dollars in cash every show, and they’ve gotta do five shows a day on the weekends. I’ll say this, though: They deserve every penny. I’ve seen their act about, oh, 10-15 times, and while it’s mostly the same thing with the same jokes with the same inflections, they earn their keep with clever wit, original jokes and more-than-decent routine.
After a couple minutes of the Twins, I reclined under this tree and let the sun shine down on my already burnt face. After only a few minutes, I drifted off to sleep peacefully like a good homeless man.
I awoke to my phone ringing — the New York Rangers were headed for playoff disaster and I made the quick walk home to watch a bit. By the time I got back, BuzzUniverse had started and they were close to taking a setbreak. I recorded about 45 seconds of their set closer and looked around for friendly faces. Sadly, not many. Still, the song was good and re-affirmed my belief that when BuzzUniverse plays the park, you go and check ‘em out.
I ran home just in time to see a wicked third period end in defeat for the Broadway Blueshirts. But I didn’t care too much — first of all, what’s hockey?, and secondably, spending about four hours in the park by yourself with a good book and a set of ears can really deaden your senses and calm your inner self. I think I can even skip my therapy this week…