July 29th, 2018
By LANA CARBON & JOHN LILIES
[Lana] Earlier this year (June 3rd, to be exact), John and I decided to… wait for it… take a little road trip. I know, you are all really surprised by this. What may throw off anyone who regularly reads our articles is that we actually had a destination in mind when we left.
[John] …and we didn’t really go that far!
[Lana] I was raised in the country so I had to be educated to many things once I moved to the city. I learned a lot of procedures I now follow for my own safety, how to move around in much more populated areas, and to get accustomed to terms I had just never heard before. One of these words was “busker”. We just didn’t have buskers in the country when I was growing up. Sure, we may have had someone sitting outside the beer or liquor store occasionally with a guitar, playing to get enough cash for a six-pack or a mickey, but no one ever called them a busker. So, when John enlightened me as to the meaning of the word and that there were Buskerfests where a bunch of these performers from all over the world would gather together to display their skills, I knew we would have to go. For a few years now, John and I have considered going to the local Buskerfest which is literally minutes from our home but the timing never seems to work out for us. Luckily, that wasn’t the case when it came to the Dundas International Buskerfest and we were able to attend on its last day.
We left early that Sunday knowing that, with Dundas being a fairly small town, we would want to make sure to arrive with lots of time to get a good parking spot. We may have been a little over zealous however, as we were there about an hour before the event started. A few of the vendors were just prepping their stands so we decided to take a walk up and down the main street to check out the local stores while we waited. That is how we found the King’s Cross: Your British Shop.
Now, it didn’t have quite as much British fare as the Wee Tartan Shop in Port Perry but the items that it did have were much more reasonably priced. I am a collector of hats and thought it would be a good opportunity to get an England cap (since they were going to be in the World Cup and all). When I saw the extremely reasonable price for such a good quality cap, I picked it up and was carrying it with me as we looked around the rest of the store. It was then that the extremely friendly owner told me all clothing was on for buy one, get one free… including the hats. I rushed back over to the shelf and we picked out a nice little number for John as well.
[John] Aside... by the time the World Cup came around and England won a huge game, Lana earned a very excited fist bump by the happiest stranger in the mall when Lana wore his red England cap one evening while we were running errands.
[Lana] (Meanwhile, back at Buskerfest...) By the time we left King’s Cross, we were in need of a coffee. We did look at a few of the vendors and even the local cafés but everything was incredibly expensive. We ended up slipping into a Starbucks for a quick drink (still expensive but slightly less so than the others around).
[John] We aren’t normally fans of Starbucks and we rarely spend that much on a coffee or rarely order a specialty drink but the other shops in the immediate area were higher-end, just that much more out of our price range, and didn’t really have enough seating for us to relax for a few minutes and rest in an air-conditioned place. As it was a fairly hot day in the sun, and we would be walking without shelter for most of it, this was our one opportunity to sit comfortably with a refreshment and I was really happy about that.
[Lana] I must note that, up until this point, I had been wearing a fedora. While sitting in the coffee shop, I took off the fedora to try on and adjust my new England cap. A gentleman who had been sitting across from us quietly up until this moment, spoke up when I put on my new cap.
“I like the other hat better. It makes you look like a gangster.”
I can’t remember exactly what I said to him in response now (“Oh yeah?” might have been the extent of it) but I am sure he must have seen the surprised look on my face. It did open up a brief conversation but my mind was stuck on the whole gangster remark. As quickly as the conversation began, it ended with him returning to staring at the wall as he had been, before ever saying anything to begin with.
[John] I wish I could fill in the blanks for Lana but I couldn’t really hear the gentleman talking and I was focussed on looking at the Buskerfest schedule so we could catch the acts that sounded most interesting to us. I know it felt like an odd encounter and the look on Lana’s face was curious, so I was certainly asking for details after we left but I can’t remember what Lana told me about what the gentleman said.
[Lana] Back out on the street now, we stopped to watch our first performer. Thelmo Parole is a very difficult act to explain. He is a silent, comedic, juggling clown, unicycling dancer, magician, and artist. When we first walked up to the huge circle of people gathered around him, I will be honest - I was worried he was just a mime. I was so delighted that he was much, much more. He was hilarious to watch. He was extremely interactive with his audience which was fantastic, especially when we were not the victims… I mean, participants. His show, for us, was the best that we saw all day. If he happens to be performing anywhere near you, please take the time to see his show, he comes all the way from Spain and it is a must-see while he is in the area.
[John] Thelmo Parole’s real name is Samuel Penhastro and he truly is remarkable. This is a person who clearly works extraordinarily hard at what he does and he does so with intense passion. I often don’t find myself entertained by these types of acts, feeling them frequently contrived and typical with not much originality. In fact, we later caught part of an act that carried some of the same tricks as in Samuel’s “The Show Must Go On” but we were not pulled in at all by this other performer. He was just tricks, as though he was only there for himself and not for those in the audience. Watching the Thelmo Parole act was entirely different – he was there to make us feel something, to connect with us; to give us an honest and heartfelt experience. For this reason, we have included for you some photos from The Show Must Go On and some video. You must experience this artist if you can… if there is a Buskerfest or similar festival near you, find out if he will be there and go see him. He is truly a joy.
(See the end of this article for links to video.)
[Lana] We moved on to catch glimpses of a few other acts but nothing truly grabbed us until we came across the musical duo Dirty Hippie Music. It isn’t often you see someone playing a didgeridoo live.
[John] Honestly playing a didgeridoo, using circular breathing which is something that will always amaze me. I’ve never understood how it is physically possible and I think I understand it less after seeing these guys. They were powerful, leaving me with all the feels.
[Lana] The music these guys were making with just the didgeridoo and a set of percussion instruments was out of this world. We could have stood there and listened to them for hours if our bodies could have taken it. Even now, just thinking back to the sounds of these two talented men, is making me want to listen again. I almost feel like this is turning into a commercial but these are honestly more talented entertainers you really need to check out.
[John] Another aspect of these two guys that I really loved, was their encouragement of the children in the audience. They had a little blanket on the ground in front of their set-up, and on it were little percussion instruments. They frequently encouraged the children around to pick up the instruments and play along, experimenting with the beats and the sounds while the music was being played. These guys told the adults to encourage the children to participate and try different things, to be involved with the music. It isn’t often that you come across an act that advertises the importance of children being involved in its own performance.
We’ve included some video of these men as well (links are at the end of this article) and we apologize if the clips are a bit long, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to cut them shorter. Please do check them out on Facebook and Instagram. They are well worth your time.
[Lana] After enjoying this incredible group, it was now time for some lunch.
We saw all kinds of differing and unique types of food which we could have chosen from but this is one of the few areas in my life where I am not exactly adventurous. John, not wanting to go to two separate places, was a sweetheart and followed me to the food truck with the more traditional Canadian fare. With a cheeseburger and sausage-on-a-bun in hand we moseyed off to find a seat where we could still see some action (which consisted of mostly people watching until we finished our meal).
[John] Also, we didn’t sit. We just stood next to a wall where we could rest our drinks while we ate. It was hot. We were tired. We maybe were beginning to fade a bit at this point (at least, I was) but we hoped that the food would pick us back up.
[Lana] A new act was just beginning to set up when we finished eating. Two ladies were getting audience members to help them set up this large metal structure which, apparently, they were going to climb, hang from, and use to perform various acts of daring. It looked like it might be interesting so we stayed to watch. Unlike some of the other acts however, they didn’t seem to keep the connection with the crowd nearly as well… especially during this set up period. “It will get better,” I thought… it really didn’t. It wasn’t that they weren’t talented in what they were doing, I guess it just didn’t appeal to me. They also brought a little bit of a racier edge to the act, which is fine if there aren’t kids in the audience. I looked over and realized John was feeling the same way, so we left before the act was over (maybe it had barely started). We strolled the length of the main street again to see what else was going on.
[John] This act was certainly talented but their humour was not something I could connect to and I really was uncomfortable with their behaviours, so I was relieved when Lana said he was happy to move on.
[Lana] There was a couple dancing to some Latin music that had us pause momentarily to watch. Now, when I say dance, I mean more like show off some acrobatic, gymnastic, and awe-inspiring strength moves in time to music. It would have been nice to see a little more of them but their show was just finishing up when we arrived to that area.
It was then that we realized the time; we had been here practically all day and knew we should be going home. However, of course, we did have to grab one last treat on the way out. Every time we passed by it, this one truck had been calling out to me. It was as though it knew my deepest, darkest secrets and planned to lure me to it using them. Either that or it might just have been the big sign that said “deep fried Mars bars”; I have a hard time resisting that kind of yumminess. John, not a fan of that, picked out the deep-fried cheesecake instead. It was a good day.
[John] This turned out to be not just a piece of cheesecake, but a monstrous hunk of cheesecake, battered and deep fried, sprinkled with icing sugar, and drizzled in chocolate sauce. It was so much more than I was expecting and way too much for this one girl to handle on her own. Sadly, I just couldn’t see my way to the end and I gave up. They certainly provided a tummy’s worth and possibly even a sugar fever.
[Lana] So, with our bellies full and having been thoroughly entertained by the cool performers, we slowly made our way home, enjoying our leisurely drive and reminiscing about our wonderful time at this year’s Dundas International Buskerfest.
[John] I’m really glad we finally had an opportunity to take in a Buskerfest and I do hope we can check out some more – either this year or next. I would love to see more acts and more… [Lana] Cheesecake? … [John] Um… well… uh… nope. Definitely still living off the memory of that one hunk of sweetness and it should carry me through for a while still. I was thinking more along the lines of passionate artists who want to influence the world with their talents. It was a pleasure and an honour to spend time watching and listening to these folks do what they love to do.
We wish you all well. Thanks for joining us on this journey!
Please click here to view our video playlist from the Dundas International Buskerfest 2018. Thank you!