David Vanadia

Secret Storytelling Shows 2000-2004

A Street performance bass, backpack, and battery operated amplifier. B Carving the Street Bass. C Street Bass in the works.

Secret Storytelling Shows were live guerilla street performances.

Storytelling was obscure back in the early 2000’s and there were very few NYC performance venues for storytellers—let alone bass playing storytellers.

Open mic at The Raven, hosted by Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend, or Latch’s marathon open mic at the Sidewalk Cafe (sign up at 7:30 PM and come back at midnight to get on stage by 3 AM) grew tiresome. The Nuyorican was all about performance poetry. If I tried really hard I could get booked on Sundays (weird night) at The Living Room or perhaps get a 20-minute slot at CBGB’s Gallery, but only if I brought 20 friends who would buy 2 drinks each. Something had to give.

Inspired by NYC buskers Flathead, Theo Eastwind, the Saw Lady, and Phil Roebuck, I modified a Squire Jazz bass to reduce the weight of the instrument for easy transportation. The amp, which doubles as a small stage, is an Electro Harmonix battery-powered Freedom Amp wrapped in cardboard and mounted to a military style A.L.I.C.E. backpack frame. Ads on Craigslist.org drove traffic to my website where I explained that I was a storyteller and asked people to join my notification list. I announced shows via email and ventured into the streets or subway to perform.

The streets don’t lie. There’s immediate feedback from real people who reward you with cash donations or punish you with indifference. There’s also no time limit, no audience requirement, and no middleman—just the freedom of doing what you love. The DIY ethos of busking is something that sticks with me to this day.

Dates: 2000-2004
Location: New York, NY

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