Monthly Archives: June 2016

Set Up On

Wednesday June 29th 2016

I got all dressed up for the first prayformance after the weekend. I’m going to dress up every day this week and see what happens. Usually I’ve been keeping it simple at the beginning of the week. It’s taken be a month and a half to start dressing up again. I really like this look. Tonight started out great. I was having a lot of fun playing. After the third song though, we heard a tuba and I thought “Oh shit. I hope there isn’t a band out there.” There was. We tried to sing one of our quieter pieces, “LA’s Waltz” over them, but I was miserable. I immediately went out to talk to them because they had stopped playing, but they started up again. I waited for them to finish and then ran over and talked to them for a while. The guy I talked to was nice and said they’d do one more song and go. I was upset and told them it was rude they’d set up on us. They knew we were there as he said he’d seen us and they heard and saw our crowds. He claimed they used to play there, but we’ve never seen them before and we’ve been coming to Lisbon over 6 years. They claimed they’d stopped playing in the street for a year because they always got fined by police (for being too loud.) They ended up playing two more songs, which I was so irritated by, but then they left. I hope they never do that again. Everyone has the right to play where they want in this city, but there is such thing as being courteous to other performers. It is the rudest thing a busker can do to set up on another busker. I’m glad I have the camera and the vlog so I can get this kind of stuff on film and share it with the world.

We were able to play for a bit longer, but we weren’t feeling so hot. Thoth was angry and hurt and had a lot of rage in him. When we get set up on, it reminds us we’re not safe. We haven’t felt this way for at least a year. I never get angry like this in Lisbon. Things like this happen in Central Park all the time, but not here. We feel loved and protected by the businesses who have ordained and approve of our presence in the space. In Central Park and Balboa Park we’re on our own, but we’re on our own here too. It’s just an illusion. When this happens, it makes me long for us to be able to play indoors. We would never be set up on if we were performing indoors exclusively. We would have more respect. When that happens, it also kills me how the audience couldn’t care less. Nobody goes up to the other group and tells them to buzz off. I have to do it by myself. It’s scary. I never know how they’ll react. I was glad they were nice, but I was angry and felt hurt by their actions. Even when someone says not to take it personally when they set up on us, I take it personally. We would never do that to someone else. We always look around and see who else is playing. Buskers should work together. That’s the only way busking can survive as an art form. Buskers can’t be fighting for space. I never like confronting other buskers. It’s uncomfortable, but I’ve done it a few times now. I don’t raise my voice, I’m just straightforward and tell them my feelings have been hurt. Most buskers you talk to in New York especially in a confrontational way, aren’t nice at all. They’ll just ignore you, or worse, be aggressive and nasty. It’s horrible. It’s one of my least favorite things to do. The thing is I had been so happy just one song previously.

We are doing a unique work and we have a right to be heard. That doesn’t mean everyone else doesn’t have the right to be heard, but everyone has a right to respect. I’m not disrespectful of others. I don’t think we’re better than anyone else either, but we do put a huge amount of effort into making our work what it is. We don’t play very much either. Two hours a day, five days a week. It’s not asking a lot for us to have space for our work to be heard. Nothing is going to stop us. No matter what gets in our way. I am fearless when standing up for my art. Thoth is fearless. We don’t stop. We don’t falter. We continue doing our art. We will die doing this art. We believe in it. It is everything to me and Thoth. We will never ever stop until our last breath. Nothing anyone does will stop us.

Here’s the Tribal Baroque vlog.

And here’s my vlog about it.

A Self Portrait: Being Creative is My Life

Tuesday June 28th 2016

Creativity is my life. It drives me to the edge and then pushed me over. Being creative makes me crazy. One day I’m blissfully happy and think the world is my oyster, the next I’m so depressed I want to die. That’s how it is to be an artist. I wouldn’t want it any differently though. I feel like I’m balancing out a bit more these days. Not all people can live like we do. We’ve had to push through so many painful and difficult times together, but it’s only made us stronger as a duo, and as a couple. Our love is reinforced by our travails. The more anyone tries to push us down, the harder we fight to push ourselves back up, and we always win, because we always keep doing what we love to do. It is a gift and a privilege to be able to be an artist. I always knew that’s what I would do. There were never any other options. I always was a singer and a creative person. Thoth is so incredible to me because he’s still creative and plying his musical and artistic craft at 62 years old. Most people give up by then. I’m going to be creative until I die, too. It’s creativity or nothing at all.

I drew again today! I haven’t drawn in a few years. Drawing is very meditative and calming for me. All my fears leave my head and I can focus exclusively on bringing out emotions and expressions using lines on paper. I had a strange epiphany years ago in regards to drawing. I’m trying to bring the person I’m drawing out of the paper. It’s immensely satisfying when I do. I get better every time I draw, and the skills don’t leave me. If I keep drawing, I’ll keep getting better. Drawing is my second favorite thing to do. I’m so happy I can be creative. I’m the most  creative when I feel safe and stable. Creativity completely goes away when I don’t feel safe. I feel very stable now. It’s more important for us to play regularly than travel to new cities. We’re happier when we’re playing.

I am a living, breathing work of art out in the real world bring real art to people. I will always be creative. I will always make beautiful music and art. I love using all different things to make art. Makeup, clothes, hair, acrylic paint, mechanical pencils, paper, my voice, my violin… It’s all used for the same purpose, to be creatively expressive. Everything is done solely by me and Thoth. There’s no prep team, no makeup artists, no hair or clothing designers, no publicity team. It’s just us and our art. It’s raw, it’s organic, it’s acoustic, it’s real, it’s honest. There’s no fakery or falseness in anything that we do. Some like it, some don’t. Who cares. We do.

We were sitting in a restaurant tonight having a really fantastic meal together at a place called Sacramento. We last went there 2 or 3 years ago. I felt a rush of memories and was awash with feelings of gratefulness. We were sitting in that restaurant 6 years ago feeling so successful and happy, and it is like we’re back at that level again. Lisbon is where we first found success together as Tribal Baroque. Of all places, Lisbon is our city. It’s one of the only European countries that allows for street performers to do what they want. Most of the rest are shut down. People think America is so free and open for people to pursue what they want, but it’s not true. Here the police and the security guards all like us and don’t harass us. Anyone with a brain knows we’re good for the areas we choose to prayform in. We’re bringing free, original art that no one has seen before, I mean come on. We’ve been blessed to have found a few places to play in the world. Here in Lisbon, the Angel Tunnel in New York and Balboa Park in San Diego. People appreciate us much more in Lisbon and San Diego, even though we do very well in NY. I don’t think we’ll ever settle down though. I’d go crazy! I love moving around. It’s good for our minds.

Being an Individual Takes Guts: Mocking, Staring and Pointing

Sunday June 26th and Monday June 27th 2016

Photo by Polly Crongeyer, writing by LA.

Photo by Polly Crongeyer, writing by LA.

It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about me. As long as I know I am doing the best I can and being the best person I can, that’s all that matters. Isn’t it odd how people judge others they don’t know? It’s ridiculous really. It’s too easy to criticize or make fun of strangers. There’s no connection to or care for their feelings.

Tonight there were a few annoyances during prayformance. The workers from one of the clothing stores came through and mockingly sang at us again. They’ve done that a few times now. The only thing I can imagine someone is feeling when they mock us is envy. We’re not doing anything to hurt them. I feel sorry for them. They’re doing a job they hate, but no one is going to stop us from doing what we love by making fun of us. Later, a drunk guy came in and was clapping off rhythm during Thoth’s solo. I told him to stop. I usually don’t do that, but he was so drunk he wasn’t even aware of what he was doing. He left and came back again and did the same thing. His girlfriend was pissed at him. We sat and didn’t play until he left. It felt like he was an energy sucking vampire. Ick!

People are taught from a young age to point at, mock and try to make people uncomfortable who are “different.” I see little kids point at us all the time. It’s astonishing how young they learn. Children learn early to oppress others who don’t fit in. That makes it easier for society to continue running through the manipulation of easily controllable sheeples. Either fit in or get bullied. I experienced it in my school days, and I experience it in the real world. It’s not so bad these days, but I still experience it from the internet, from staring and pointing from strangers, and from mocking. It doesn’t stop me, but it is interesting. It takes a lot of personal will power to be yourself in a world where everyone is too afraid to be themselves. Being yourself can feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable in a world like this. People love pointing out things that don’t fit in.

This weekend I became very aware of how staring in our society is used as a tool to shame people who are different. If I didn’t learn how to be stared at when I first started playing with Thoth, I’d be cowering in a corner all the time. That’s the only thing you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen. Most people do. Not just when we play, but when we’re walking around in costume. Even when we’re not in costume! People do the same thing all over the world. Someone will stop for a few seconds and stare, then if there’s someone with them as they walk past, they’ll say something to them and the other person will wrench their head back to look. Thoth taught me long ago how to look at people. If he ever tells me someone behind me looks interesting, I won’t immediately turn my head. I’ll turn a little after, so the person has no idea. Or, if I ever look at someone who looks interesting and they look at me, I always make sure to smile at them as if to say, “I accept you.” I’ll usually say something nice, too. Sometimes people will stare at us as we pass and I’ll look at them and smile and their stare will turn into a glare. It’s as if they’re saying, “I don’t like you and I disapprove of how you look.” It’s bullying behavior. Most people can’t have fun and be different and dress up because they’re too scared how others will judge them.

Going out and dressing the way you want and being how you want can be scary. Being stared and made fun of at is hard to get used to, but if you’re an individual, it’s part of the package. It’s not like we’re doing something wrong when people stare and point at us. When bullies stare and point or laugh and mock, I think the victim becomes a nonhuman in their eyes. The victim become more like a statue who has no feelings. I could never laugh at someone because I see everyone as human. Bullying still happens outside school, but not as much because we’re not around so many young hordes of idiotic people.

Speaking of that, a group of kids at the beach today were staring and making fun of us for how we were dressed, especially of Thoth’s skirt-wearing fabulousness. More often than not, it’s groups of people who mock or make fun of others. It doesn’t happen individually. In a group, it’s usually the bully that leads, and the others tend to model their behavior after the bully because it’s more acceptable. That’s how Hitler and Stalin existed. It’s almost impossible for one person in the group to call the others out for being wrong. I was never in a group, nor was Thoth. That’s how we’re able to do what we do.

The best thing is to strike out on your own path I think. That’s the only way to learn compassion and understand the power of being yourself. People who make fun of strong individuals are trying to pump themselves up by bringing the other person down to their level. It’s sad and pathetic actually. I remind myself what they’re doing has nothing to do with me. Bullies are threatened by happy, unique and talented people because they are none of those things. What they say or do has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with them and their issues. They don’t know me. Their meanness and heartlessness is a projection of their broken shattered spirits. They have my pity and my compassion, but they will never break my spirit. I am an individual. I will take whatever people throw at me and just keep on singing and singing and singing.

As a friend of mine says, fuck ’em!

Creatively Inspired

Saturday June 25th 2016

The last few weeks I was feeling so down I thought my inspiration for prayformance was gone. I was simply going through the motions, but this week I’ve had a breakthrough.

I’m not doing anything for anyone other than myself. This really has been a revelation for me. People have talked to me about it in the past, but there’s no way I could really understand than on my own in my own way. I’m not wearing makeup or a costume or singing in my own language to make people like me, I’m doing it because it helps me to feel my characters better and dig into the emotional intensity of the creative work I’m doing with Thoth. Getting compliments is superficial in comparison. I’m not doing it to make money either. That’s also an immensely superficial thing. It’s a bonus. Money and compliments and inspiration come because I’m focused on the WORK, not what I’m getting superficially from it.

Prayformance is a deeply personal and powerful process for me. When I truly embrace that, instead of looking for approval and attention, I truly understand what it is I’m doing. I’m breathing life into myself and fully singing that out into the universe. The more open and vulnerable and exposed I am when I perform, the more rewards are reaped, both physically and spiritually. I’ve been prayforming for a long time, but I don’t think I’ve really understood what that means until now. I’m having a communion with my true self. When people see that in a theatrical and heightened expression, emotions, kind words and money come to us. That is magical, and a blessing. To be able to go outside and sing for people, and those people to make it possible for us to continue singing and performing is an amazing gift.

The less I focus on what I’m frustrated about and the more I focus on the simple steps I can take to be a better artist, the better things will get for me. I think that’s why I’ve been in a rut since February. I want something, but I feel like it won’t happen so it doesn’t matter. It does matter. If for no one else, it matters for me and for my own growth as a person and as an artist. That’s the most important! Who cares what it does for anyone else if it’s not helping me?! I’ve been so wound up in wanting more attention for our work, I’ve lost sight of what is really important. Growth. I do the work every day to grow and learn. When I have a bad week, it’s OK, I just need to keep doing the work and growing and learning as much as I can. I’ve been focusing on the wrong things and not digging deeply enough. No one but myself can give me what I want. There isn’t anything anyone can do that is more powerful than me doing it myself. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. I can be and dress and sing and dance and act and move and play however I want to. No one is telling me what to do. I am free. That can scare me sometimes, but it’s not scary.

I’m 28 years old. I’ve been traveling and performing for 7 years. I’ve done lots of amazing things already, but there is so much more to learn. Sometimes I feel like we should be successful with what we do now, but I have so many things to improve on. It takes decades to become great at something. Just because we haven’t become famous after 7 years of Tribal Baroque’s existence doesn’t mean we’re failures or we’ll never be successful or our dreams will never come true. It takes a long time for success! It takes a long time for things to come together, but I can do things to get ready. Readiness is all. If I just focus on that, on working as hard as I can to be the best person I can be, then that’s all I need to do. No one can say I didn’t try or that I didn’t throw myself into my dreams with my whole heart, come hell or high water. I am successful now. Whether anything really big happens for us or not, I will always be learning and growing and changing and accepting myself for who and where I am in life.

A Life of Art

Friday June 25th 2016

I acted for 4 hours when I got up, had a vegetarian lunch and watched some “best acting of all time” clips while getting ready to play. It was inspiring! I don’t understand how to act, but when I see good actors I know which ones are the best. It’s a particular look they have, the way they carry themselves and how they speak. My favorite actors are Daniel Day Lewis, Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Spacey, Sharlto Copley, Ralph Finnes, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp and Gary Oldman. There are others. All men of course, and all intense in their own ways. I love intensity.

I got all dressed up tonight, for some reason. I was inspired I guess. I’ve come to realize that dressing up isn’t for the audience, it’s for me. It helps me prayform better, feel more confident and have more fun. I like being outrageous and doing something with my look people don’t do.

Elisa and her boyfriend came to see us for the second time since we’ve been here. We knew it would be a great prayformance evening for us when we saw them. We love when fans come to see us! It makes us feel appreciated and loved! They stayed for the full two hour prayformance. They even dressed up. It was a fantastic night. When we finished, she gave me a new Babe she’d made just for me! OMGGGGG!!!!!!!!! So cute!!!! I feel so happy when people love our work. It makes me feel like a completely different person.

There were lots of gay men in the street. It’s Gay Pride this weekend. They loved my look, but  were quite drunk. 🙂 We had dinner at the Italian place we used to go to, called Boteo, in Barrio Alto. It used to be called Mama Rosa. The chef remembered us and gave us free drinks and toasted with us. He was so handsome! He reminds me of our friend Michael C. from the Bay Area. The food is better than it’s ever been there. Highly recommended! I love when people treat us well, like celebrities. It was a fantastic end to our night.

I am so lucky to be living this life! I get to rest and do whatever I want in the house all day, have a delicious lunch, then get dressed up and go out to play for a couple hours. We have fans who come see us, then have a delicious dinner at a restaurant where the chef loves us! I’ve worked so hard and long to be able to experience happy times like these. There was a time when we were here back when we first arrived in 2010 and we weren’t doing well at all. I was terrified then, but look at us now! I have to tough out the hard times to be able to again enjoy the joyous times. There’s no reason for us to go anywhere else in the summer but Lisbon. People love us, the restaurants love us. We have a place to live a 10 minute walk away from our prayformance spot. We seem to get more an more famous every year we come here.

Imagine when it’s been 10 years of us coming to Lisbon or San Diego. We’re quite well known in those cities now, but imagine what it will be like then? Or 20 years! I didn’t think about that when we first started traveling. We’re getting famous, but we’re doing it the slower, more organic way. Each person who becomes a fan meets us and speaks to us face to face. Each person discovers us in a different way, and they don’t forget us. It does pay off to stick with your art. It does!!