We’ve all been there: downtown Seattle, running late with a million errands to run in a sea of crowds. But if you stop for just a minute, you will hear the distinctive sounds of steal drums. Even if you don’t have the time to stop by, the siren of the drums will call to you and you will find yourself in front of a local busker, enjoying his craft. These are the moments that make Seattle and life in general feel a little less hectic.
While Seattle doesn’t have its own version of New York’s Naked Cowboy, it does feature a number of talented artists. Buskers come and go and while not always easy to find, there are some great local street entertainers out there if you know where to look. Just be sure to bring a little change.
Acoustic guitarists Jeff Lillevold and Jacob Fuller play a long way from their home in Minnesota. Together they make Moorison Boomer and have been playing original music together for more than five years. The duo has produced four albums and is currently working on a fifth; not bad for a couple of street musicians. Last year the two added Alaina Wright as a third harmony and Andrew Ginn as a drummer. With the new, bigger sound, the group is selling more albums than ever. You can usually find them in the Pike Place Market every weekend.
Besides having a super cool name, Snake Suspenderz have been a true crowd pleaser since 2004. The toe-tapping group consists of Thaddeus Spae on bass trombone, guitar and harmonica; “Howlin’” Hobbit on ukulele and harmonica; Andrew “Sketch” Hare on drums; and Salamandir on tuba. Together, they play jazz (or “jass” as they say) from the 20s, 30s and 40s with no amps to speak of. However, the group doesn’t stay in one place very long. In addition to the streets of Seattle, the group plays at private parties, farmer’s markets, clubs, craft festivals and open mic nights. The best way to find them is to check out their website.
As a teacher by day and a performer at night (or day, depending on the situation), violinist Rachel Sage has shared the stage with many musicians. Together with her training of the instrument at the University of Minnesota and Cornish College of the Arts, she has appeared in over 30 musicals in Minnesota and Washington. When she isn’t hitting the pavement she’s playing with local Seattle groups, including The Gloria Darlings, The Golden Tree Story and Alicia Healey. If you don’t see her outside of the Pike Place Starbucks, you can get a sample of her music at Reverbnation.com.
One of longest performing buskers in Pike Place Market is Emery Carl, who began playing in 2001. Since then he has become the chairman of the Market’s Performer’s Guild and founder of Mystr E Entertainment, a CD producer for other buskers. Not only can Emery play the guitar, he can play with the guitar balancing on his chin while working two hula hoops, rubbing his head one way and his stomach the other, and spinning on one foot. He says that he’s pretty sure that he’s the only person in the world who can do that. Think you can do better? Perhaps you might want to square off with him down at the market sometime.
Pianist-singer-songwriter, Jonny Hahn has all of the above beat, as he has been performing at Pike Place since 1986. Playing all original music, Jonny bounces back and forth playing folk, boogie, blues, classical and rock and roll. (If you’re wondering how one performs “original classical” music, you may need to ask him.) Jonny has produced 11 recordings with his 64-key piano. Legend has it that he is playing on this fifth piano having beaten up the previous four. After 25 years of lugging a piano around the market, he still has no plans to retire.
Related: Guide To Pugent Sound Piano Bars
Jeffrey Totey is a freelance writer living in Seattle. He has a love for the arts and is a student of pop culture. He covers stories about the performing arts, theater, museums, cultural events, movies and more in the greater Seattle area. His work can be found at Examiner.com.