Can you judge a city's cultural progress by its buskers?
Why not? It won't cost you anything.
Anyway Saratoga Springs is the tony city to our south. Home of a thoroughbred race track, both a Gap AND a Banana Republic, and just truckloads of beautiful, WASPy people. It's where you go if you want to people watch, or eat something that's not served in a paper funnel.
Street musicians and performers aren't new there -- there's usually some college kids hanging out noodling around on their guitars hoping no one notices that they kind of suck -- but you don't need too many people to put a dollar in your open guitar case before you have enough money to buy some Oxycontin.
Last night, though, there were more performers on Broadway, the main drag, than I have ever seen at one time. Unfortunately, this town has a way to go before the quality of its street acts approach the likes of Burlington, Vermont (or, as they call it on the street circuit, "The Big Wool Sweater").
OK here's a quick review:
IRONIC ROBOT-DANCING DESTRO MAN: Guy in black turtleneck and jeans, wearing a black fedora, and a silver robot mask with flashing, red, LED-light eyes. He struck a "doin' the robot" pose, but only moved to another pose if someone put money in his bag. He had a hand drawn sign that said, "The tipping robot."
Might have been good shtick if there weren't a bunch of people gathered around waiting for him to do something. But a crowd gathered, and he remained still (because no one was tipping him). Then a little standoff ensued. The crowd wasn't going to tip him 'til he broke out some robot moves. He wasn't moving until there was money in the bag.
Someone gave in and dropped a dollar in the bag. And IRDDM moved for about 3 seconds, all ironic and robot-y.
It got a little ugly when the heckling started: "Let's wait him out," said one guy. Another guy said, "Dude, you need to tighten up your act a little."
NERVOUS COLLEGE KIDS DOING CELTIC MUSIC: At least they weren't blatantly extorting tips from people. They were having problem with their sound board so we heard a lot of crackling. Not very jig-worthy.
SOLITARY UKULELE MAN ON A PARK BENCH: And, I quote: "Plinka-plinka-plinka-plinka-fank-fank-fank. Plinka-plinka-plinka-plinka-fank-fank-fank." Repeat.