The new kids on the block at the Lawrence Busker Fest
Downtown Lawrence is no stranger to a folk singer sharing tales on one corner and a saxophone player entertaining passersby on the next. But only one weekend of the year does the entire area flood with street entertainers from all over the world for three days of live music hilarity and wild antics.
With 25 confirmed street acts, there are plenty of opportunities to be entertained by the regular acts — sword swallowers, fire eaters, acrobats, magicians and the like. But there are some new kids on the block, too. Here are five newcomers to look out for:
If you go:
The weekend schedule for the seventh annual Lawrence Busker Fest, held between Seventh and 11th streets in downtown Lawrence. For a more detailed schedule of every performance, check out the Busker Festival’s website:
Busker Fest Ball, 7 p.m.,The Granada, 1020 Massachusetts St., $5-$8. Tickets available at Granada box office.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
2:45 p.m. to 11 p.m.
1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The poets of Lawrence are taking over the breezeway between Seventh and Eighth streets in honor of the written, spoken and, most importantly, shared words.
“Poetry is one of those important arts for people to say what they need to say, to let that be experienced by other people, and let everybody benefit from saying words,” says social worker Marcia Epstein.
Epstein is host of Voice of Lawrence’s “Talk With Me” radio show, which brings in poets from the community to speak on poetry as a catalyst for healing. She reached out to Busker Fest organizer Richard Renner this year to further her goal of bringing as many people into the written community as possible.
Poetry Alley will feature performances, kids activities, such as paper-making and decorating stones with words, and a community word wall. Jordan Hocker will make an appearance as “The Typewriter Oracle” where she will type poetry on the spot with prompts from passersby.
“Some will be working with people to get poetry created by people who don’t know they are poets,” Epstein says. “It’s giving people confidence in using their own words because it’s so important.”
The Silly People
Phil LeConte and Colin Franks’s The Silly People variety show is self-described as “free-style comedy.” Armed with balloons and juggling clubs, it’s not clear as to what they will do to dazzle the crowd until it happens right before their eyes.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Renner says about what they’ll be doing. “But you’ll walk away happy you went.”
In their act “The Lords of Latex,” LeConte and Franks have volunteers compete in their own balloon animal creation race with the two experts guiding them along with limited instruction.
They also construct colorful balloon hats and playful laser guns for bystanders to participate in a face off, each person wielding a pretend weapon.
Balloons were the basis of how The Silly People got started more than 20 years ago. Now look forward to yo-yos, circus tricks and modern miming.
USA Break Dancers
Renner refuses to play favorites as far as newcomers go, but he cannot contain his excitement for the USA Break Dancers.
“We’ve never had break dancers in the Busker Fest before,” he says.
The artistic coach and founder of the break dancing group Julio “Klown” Santiago is a former award-winning Cirque du Soleil artist who represented Michael Jackson in “The Immortal World Tour.”
The team of “b-boys” incorporates acrobatics and comedy into the dance routines. Watch them land aerial flips, slide across the floor on their heads, and spin their entire bodies on the ground, in addition to theatrical choreography as funk, disco, hip-hop, old-school rap and classic soul keeps them energized.
Just wait for them to select a crowd member to bust a move. That’s when the real comedy comes into play.
Michael Trautman: King Pong’s Ping Pong Rodeo
Master manipulator of ping pong balls, Michael Trautman is a nontraditional clown whose newest show is called King Pong’s Ping Pong Rodeo. He’s the human pop gun, Renner says.
“He can shoot a dime up in the air and then hit it by spitting a ping pong ball out of his mouth,” Renner says.
It seems the ping pong table in his basement when he was a high school student provided for an unusually enthralling act years down the line. Mixing in some magic along the way, Trautman snorts the ping pong ball up his nose and spits it out of his mouth, shoots it into the air and then juggles a few at a time using solely his mouth.
And then there’s the ping pong ball target practice portion of the act. At one point, he brings in a volunteer for his own rendition of the game William Tell.
Dave Aiken: The Checkerboard Guy
Dave Aiken is comic daredevil best known around the world as The Checkerboard Guy. He’s a busking legend, Renner says.
Aiken, donning an abundance of the checkerboard pattern, will balance on the top rung of a free-standing ladder while he juggles, Renner says.
His three signature moves are the tightrope of death with Aiken juggling fiery clubs while balancing on a tightrope; the 6-foot unicycle of death where he rides around on a giraffe unicycle; and the flaming leap of death with him riding a scooter over a ramp placed next to a participant lying on the ground, with small torches on either side of the ramp.
No matter how risky the trick may be, this daredevil is really out for laughter.