The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday December 2nd

Street Performin' Ain't Easy

Two DTH writers performed songs by the Verve and Britney Spears on Franklin Street last Thursday.

But for those aspiring musicians who've yet to realize their dreams, we've learned firsthand that it takes more than sheer ability to stand in front of people and perform for two hours.

It takes guts. Mettle. Desire for public humiliation.

Fortunately, we have all of that and more.

Equipped with an acoustic guitar and a borrowed set of bongos (thanks, Wallace), the two of us hit Franklin Street on April 11 with our musical revue to find out what the pros go through to put on a nightly show for the masses.

Surprisingly, the setup and preparation were more nerve-wracking than the performance itself. After only two rehearsals, we weren't exactly ready to showcase our repertoire of bongo-driven '80s Brit-rock.

Despite our varying levels of expertise (8 years on guitar, 2 days on the bongos), we both found the experience to be, um ... interesting.

After about a half hour of playing our little hearts out, we earned our first fans: a couple of kindly but unkempt middle-aged men sporting well-worn clothing and carrying plastic shopping bags.

While we entertained them with our songs, they entertained us with their discussions of UNC during the '70s ("Hippie Hill"), the impending Armageddon and alien abduction.

But the conversation halted and they left abruptly with startled looks on their faces when we performed our rendition of The Verve's "The Drugs Don't Work."

Guess we couldn't please everybody.

Others were not as appreciative of our debut efforts, one listener even taking advantage of our naivete.

After he suckered us out of a dollar from the guitar case with a lie about needing bus fare, the man was joined by a friend for a small crime spree. The two men, whom we bitterly refer to as "The T-Shirt Bandits," stole several UNC shirts from the storefront of Carolina Pride, all the while casting furtive glances in our direction.

To our knowledge, the duo has not been brought to justice.

Aside from the random act of petty theft, our performance was generally ignored by the patrons of Franklin Street.

After only a couple handfuls of change in the case and one horn honk from a passing car, we decided to do something drastic: an acoustic rendition of the classic Britney Spears tune, "... Baby One More Time."

This measure caused passers-by to lose their ability to walk upright and to stumble over themselves in laughter, but none were so entertained as to loosen their purse strings.

Two hours and $4.95 later, we left Franklin Street enlightened, exhausted and no longer afraid of the thought of performing to a captive audience. (Actually, we're still wondering where to find a captive audience.)

Our escapade concluded with freshly earned feelings of camaraderie and empathy for our fellow street artists. Chapel Hill's street performers might not earn your adoration, but they do deserve your respect.

It's not easy to maintain composure and carry a tune while subjecting yourself to the curious stares and open criticisms of your peers.

Street performing is also not the best way to become independently wealthy. But you just might find yourself richer for having had the experience.

Britney Spears enthusiast Michael Abernethy and novice bongo player Harmony Johnson, donated all of their meager earnings to the Ackland Art Museum. They can be reached at mabernet@email.unc.edu and harmonyj@email.unc.edu, respectively.

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