Night With Berlin’s Buskers: The Party Never Ends
The 300 person strong crowd outside of the Warschauerstraße station roars in protest as the two officers make their way toward the busking quartet at the center. Despite his battle cry, the young Brazilian starts to casually pack up his distortion pedals.
For street performer Zicamen and the three musicians he plays with under the name The Party, this interference is a daily occurrence. And just like any other time their impromptu shows get busted, the quartet packs their things, urges audience members with nothing else to do to come to the next location, and splits their earnings four ways. The four men laugh and run down the merits of the set they just ran through. It’s hard to believe that the four guys have ended up playing on Berlin’s streets together only a few weeks ago but they really work as a group to round up a bigger crowd and save up for their own ends. Brazilian beat-boxer Zicamen and Australian bassist Mad Max plan to continue travelling on, to England and Switzerland, respectively. Klass, their Hannover-born drummer, works the busker scene sporadically to bring money back to his ‘nice little home in the countryside’. Nobody’s quite sure what saxophonist Mike needs his money for. Between songs, the lean Brooklyn man decked out in Japanese robes and Morpheus sunglasses speaks about the evils of money, about a coming financial crash, and a need to band together to grow our own food. Maybe he’s setting up a farm for the end of days.
The impending dystopic future may explain his irritation when a small Frenchman breaks up the jovial post-concert banter and threatens his plans by demanding payment from the band. The small man claims to have earned his keep by stripping half naked in the middle of the set and dancing in a style that can only be described as an hour long seizure, as the musicians worked the crowd into a frenzy with Eurythmics and Bob Marley covers.
‘You can’t just come up here and dance and think you’re getting paid! I get it, it’s your art, but you gotta tell us first that you want to get paid! Let’s go, I’m getting tired of this!’ Mike rants as he stomps off towards the M10, leaving The Party to finish packing.
The funk doesn’t last long. Mike has surrounded himself with a group of German teenagers and is pontificating on his vision of the future, or why white Australians aren’t supposed to live down under. After half a pack of cigarettes and a few Sternies, it’s hard to muster up the concentration to keep up with the lecture. Zicamen and Max are in the same boat, half sleeping on the tram seat after a long day. Only Klass seems to keep up, chuckling every few seconds, waiting for the tram to take off towards Eberswalder and the ‘secret location’ that Mike promised his young fans.
You can tell the German is getting anxious, his eyes dart around the cabin from behind his retro glasses until he can’t take it anymore. The wry percussionist whips off his Panama hat, revealing a retreating hairline, and leaps to his feet, musical spoons in hand. He begins to rap them on his fingers and urges the passengers to join him. The teenagers begin to slap their chests in rhythm, only to be scolded by a BVG worker who comes storming out of the driver’s compartment. His warnings don’t hold much weight with The Party. Even though young Max and Zicamen are more likely to pass out, old guard Mike and Klass parade the aisle belting out ‘When The Saints Come Marching In’. The rowdy late night crowd cheers the duo on as they dive into their pockets for wallets and cameras. A stag party goes far enough to toss a 10€ note into Klass’ hat.
The duo trundles off the tram, splits their gains between the two of them and joins the rest of The Party. And it all begins again at the U8 Rosenthaler station. Despite playing all day, the group manages to set up once again and launch into renditions of Bobby McFerrin for club kids returning on the last trains. Once again, the crowd swells and dances as the band dare to play one more song and risks police attention.
However, the police are just another obstacle for these men to work around and precautions are taken to avoid trouble. The Party migrates to the Späti on Kastanianallee to crack open Max’s bass case and divide the overflowing pile of change they have drummed up. As the rest of the musical collective rolls up, sips cold beers, and makes conversation with everyone from the local drunks to the American coeds in town, they make plans to record the next day before playing at Mauerpark. With more than 50€ rattling away in their pockets and new setlists to draw up, it’s clear that nothing can stop The Party in Berlin.
By Robert Arenella