During the summer months Pearl Street becomes a showcase of artists, tarot-card readers, performers and musicians ranging from high school orchestral prodigies to vagabond harmonica players.
Jase Anderson, 18, said he came to Boulder from Key West, Florida, where he learned to juggle as a kid.
“I used to kind of want to be a firefighter,” Anderson said. “But then my buddy ‘Blue’ and I started performing in Mallory Sqaure.”
Mallory Square is a little pier in Key West, and there is an every-night event to celebrate the sunset.
Now Anderson said he makes his living that way here in Boulder for the time being, and plans on doing so for the foreseeable future.
”We only have like 10 feet, and there’s like 30 performers battling for the crowd,” Anderson said. “You gotta fight for it.”
As are all types of performance, street performance is highly audience dependent.
“Sometimes there’ll be a lot of rude people who don’t wanna work with you,” Anderson said.
On average, Anderson said he makes $250 to $300 a day.
“If you give me $5, I’ll feel like a star,” he said. “If you give me $10, I’ll feel like a superstar, if you give me $20, I’ll go home with you.”
This is Anderson’s “tip-line,” which he said usually gets a laugh from the crowd during the finale. Sometimes though, people don’t think it’s a joke. Once after his show, Anderson said he had to lie about his age, saying he was a minor in order to deter some unwanted tip-related attention.
On the same block where Anderson performs, 29-year-old Kate Flaherty does her show. Flaherty said that everyone tries to cooperate and take turns.
“Performers fight over stupid stuff, like whose turn it is, whose space is whose, whose tricks or lines are whose,” she said. “It’s easier to learn something than think of something new.”
Flaherty said she is self-taught and is doing pretty well for herself. Her signature move is her finale, the “one-handed handstand of death,” where she stands on one hand over four flaming torches.
“I make more than enough to keep coming out here,” she said.
Flaherty said it takes a toll on her body and doesn’t foresee continuing for many more years. She hopes to be doing more indoor stage performances, which she said is more reliable.
“Until then, I’m passionate about what I do,” she said.
Ibash-i Brown said he has lived in Boulder for twenty years and can be found on Pearl Street almost every day. A limber contortionist who folds himself into positions sometimes painful to watch, he is hard to miss with his dreadlocks, Bob Marley tee, colorful shorts and leggings tucked into his socks.
Brown said he has succeeded in street-performing because of his consistency. “I only got this far because I make myself exercise daily,” he said.
Brown said he is currently facing deportation as a result of two marijuana possession charges. Originally from the Caribbean, Brown has his green card but was never naturalized because he wanted to retain dual-citizenship.
A father of four, Brown said he hopes to win in court on Sept. 30, which he said will cost him between $6,000 to $10,000.
Another recognizable showman is Mark Allen Curry, often referred to as Pearl Street’s “Bronze Wayne” or “Copper Cowboy.” An award-winning national comedian who has performed overseas; Curry said he is frequently invited to perform in New York and Vegas. But Curry said he likes Pearl Street because of the people.
“It’s sophisticated, people are appreciative of art and aware of the tour,” he said. “Denver is brutal, there’s this sense of entitlement that is just crushing for street performers.”
There isn’t a square inch of exposed skin on Curry’s head, neck or hands that is not as bronzed as his painted cowboy outfit and tip bag. Only his eyes, which follow passerby’s or wink while remaining otherwise motionless, show any natural color.
“I play to my strengths,” Curry said. “Statue is not my strength—comedic elements are. That’s why it’s handy that the statue illusion seems so successful that I need to move to make money.”
Sometimes Curry will wave, draw his gun, or break the fourth wall altogether and pose with tippers for photographs.
“It’s the Karma, the spirituality, the soul.” Curry said. “It’s an honor to be well-received and appreciated.”
Curry said he sees street performing as a sort of study of the human condition.
“It’s an interaction with people with a myriad of socio-economic backgrounds,” he said.
Like many street performers, Curry said he feels good when he makes others feel good. As he got in his car to go home and grill a New York Strip for his wife and daughters, he offered one last piece of life advice:
“Follow your bliss,” Curry said.
Contact Staff Writer Ana McIntosh at Anna.firstname.lastname@example.org.