"Street Music" is celebrating 35 years!
As you venture down the Hillclimb and hear the resounding acoustics of singing or strumming filling the landing area outside the DownUnder, the backdrop to this performer’s stage is a tribute to its storied past.
Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, “Street Music” is a 12-foot mural by local artist Karen DeWinter dedicated to the iconic busker characters of its time.
Musicians featured from left to right: Steve Brown, Artis the Spoonman, Da-Kadu, Neal Storme, Ron Bailey, Baby Gramps, Barbara Ehle. Guitarist playing is Matthew Shockey.
Started as a philanthropic project by a group of local business people, an open call was held to bring life and color to this cavernous concrete landing of the lower levels. Given its location, it was only right that the final design would be an ode to its regular attendees.
Buskers have been an integral part of the vibrant culture at Pike Place Market for decades, enlivening various pedestrian corners and creating small moments of joy for passersby to stop and take in the local talent.
While you’ll see a range of entertainment including performance arts like miming and magic, musicians are the core of the busking community.
Market busker Jeannie Rak performing “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston
Though informal and low-tech without amplified sound, buskers reach audiences of thousands over the course of time with these captivating intimate performances, setting the stage for the emergence of many successful artists that head on to larger venues.
Notable indie folk band The Head & the Heart began their career busking at the Market, making their homecoming return in 2019 amid thousands of spectators on the rooftop.
Below are just a few artists to note that are featured in “Street Music”.
Artis the Spoonman
Beginning in the early 70s, this unique performer created his percussions purely with his hands, body, and a bundle of spoons. His eclectic notoriety and rapid-fire rhythms led him to share the stage with big-name artists like Soundgarden, Aerosmith, Frank Zappa, and feature in Soundgarden’s “Spoonman”. See him in action here. These days he lives a quiet life in the small peninsula town of Port Townsend, Washington.
Indie rock singer and songwriter Neal Storme has performed and produced in the Northwest throughout his lifetime. Still residing locally, he and his group “The Band of Amazing Friends” have made regular appearances at Seattle’s Hempfest in the last decade. Their album “Ay B Si” was released in 2016. Listen to him perform with his band live here.
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ron Bailey has traveled the globe in his career. While busking at the Market, he formed a vaudeville theater troupe that eventually landed in Paris. He and his collaborators performed in the streets and toured across Western Europe, entertaining with song, dance, circus acts, and more.
In 2004, Ron took his vaudeville roots and founded Seattle’s comedy and variety series called The Moisture Festival. Watch him perform live on Art Zone with Nancy Guppy.
With a tip of his signature wide-brimmed hats and quick finger-picks or occasionally a swift elbow to strike chords on his steel guitar, Baby Gramps captures his audience with a transformative form of musical storytelling.
His unique collection of alternative instruments like shoebox ukuleles, cigar box fiddles, and musical saws elevates his one-of-a-kind showmanship alongside throat-singing that’s been described as adjacent to Popeye the Sailor. Watch his crafty wordplay come alive here.