Sunday, July 8, 2007

Not your typical street performer

Its 12 Pm, and a very sunny evening in Fanueil Hall. I sit in a bench and watch 27 year old street performer, Al Millar. Covered in tattoos from head to toes, he wears a spiky metal helmet over his head starts talking to the air: “It’s show time everyone,” – I laugh. “Don’t be foolish, you know you want to watch, please come closer”. I didn’t think he could pull it off, but amazingly enough, after 10 minutes I wasn’t the only one watching him, I was surrounded with heads of people laughing and competing to participate with the legendary Al Millar.

Perhaps what’s so breathtaking about his show is not only his sympathy with the crowd, but his physical skills- Al bends his body in a way in which he ends up in a position that probably, only he, in the entire world is able to do. “He’s a freak. How else would you explain someone that bends his legs behind his torso, pulls them over his head to the point were his feet touch the ground again? The man is made out of rubber” says Karla, a girl seating besides me while watching him perform. After doing the body knot, Al carries on to ride a miniature bicycle (smaller than the one you would give to your 4 year old son); he also balances on one leg on top of a 7 meter standing tube where he juggles with four sharp knives. “Every trick he pulls is even more un-expected than the previous one, I watch him – and I just can’t believe he’ll pull it off” another audience member says.

I listen to his pathos-driven speech as he says “Now ladies and Gentlemen, who you are watching today is a street performer from Australia. I chose to street perform because I think it’s an honest way to make a living; if I have entertained you even a little bit for this past hour, then I know I’ve done my job. After I finish here I will be collecting tips, [people start looking serious] so take out a few bucks of your wallet- and hand me the wallet” People start laughing, and taking out money out of their wallets; once again, Al sympathizes with his audience and after his show he manages to collect a total amount of 80$. Not so bad for one hour of performing right? “Sometimes it’s a bit, sometimes it’s a lot, I guess this form of art is very unexpected, but believe me most times it’s very rewarding” Al says “when people see street performers they think we live on the streets; it’s not always like that, at least not for me anyways” he says.

Then I understood why he said that. Al isn’t just any street performer that spends the whole day in the sun performing again and again until he has made enough money to go home – and where’s home? You see, Al has won about 10 street performing festivals all over the world, including the People’s Choice Award in Canada 2003, the first prize for the Golden Cobble in Holland; A sides from street performing he also done a lot of modeling, acting (he was an extra for the movie matrix revolution), he has a stage show were he performs magic tricks, a 3 page contract if you’d want to hire him to entertain your party, and Al is also one of two members of a band called Human Kind, which has a very promising future. But having it all now doesn’t mean he hasn’t worked hard to get it.

When Al started street performing he was only 17, he knew many people in the scene and so he decided to try it out by doing his body knot, he started training and learning juggling, but his main hook was always his body- bending phenomena. “There was just something about people watching and laughing at me that I loved, it was like they connected with me, like they got me. By street performing I was not only making money, but doing what I liked, and hell the more I did it the easier it was and the more I liked it.” After street performing in Australia for several years, while also modeling, acting and doing anything he could do to expand his artistic curriculum, he had met so many different artists and performers that he started to travel the world with his show. This perhaps isn’t as complicated as we might think, street performers have itineraries of street performing festivals all over the world “I live similar to those backpacking tourists: with a small bag, train tickets and very cheap motels in the few places where I can’t find a friend’s house to crash in.” It was when he started to travel that he realized he could make himself get known better, while making anywhere from $600 to $4000 in tips in different street performers’ festivals, he was also winning many prizes, and attracting the media. “While traveling and meeting so many different artists I took advantage of this and learned something different from each person, in every city that I went I looked for new opportunities and different activities that I could do to make more money, so I started my stage show, when I saw how people reacted to my show I thought it would be a good idea to offer it for private parties, and soon it became a success.”

One evening in Australia he met Bostonian street performer Jason Gardner, who can also be seen more frequently in Fanueil Hall performing his straightjacket escape trick. They both shared same interests in music and arts, so they started a band together (Human Kind). A band that is now recording it’s first full length debut CD at Well Spring Studios. “Humankind is like Stone Temple Pilots meets Marilyn Manson. Power punk circus rock with a spooky edge. This is ghost rock circus core played by sideshow freaks from desolate lands” says AL of his band in their portal
www.humankindband.com. Al sings and writes the lyrics, while Jason plays the drums. Al is now in Boston mainly because of his music, while rehearsing and recording, he and Jason are preparing themselves for their concert upstairs in the Middle East to be held July 29th.

Although he knows he is a street performer and will always street perform, Al is open to new things, he likes experimenting and exploding his talents. For him, any day is a good day. “It’s not easy doing everything at once, but now I feel I am at the peak of my career, and I like not knowing what is going to happen next or where I’m going to be in a month”.
Ana Cristina Sosa Morasso

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