By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
THE PRACTICUM: HE MUST, HE MUST, HE MUST INCREASE HIS BUSK!
Stop, children, what's that sound? Could it be Faux Jean: Unplugged? In order to prove that the pompadoured mod man can wield a guitar pick as well as a pencil, we ask him to complete his job application by busking in front of the Barnes & Noble on Nicollet Mall. Game for the challenge, Faux Jean grabs his guitar, lubes up his hair, and slathers bright orange balm upon his smackers. And then he's ready to go. If he doesn't succeed in making more money in an hour than his band has made in a day on MP3.com, we warn him, City Pages might offer the position to that dinosaur busker who has been jangling the classics in Dinkytown since the bygone days before Faux Jean first consulted the Avon Lady.
Perhaps he's shrewd, or perhaps honest. But Faux Jean refuses to play to audience sympathy by informing passersby that he's playing his psychedelic psalms for food. He won't wager his guitar riffs for a place to stay tonight. The only thing that will get Faux Jean strumming on the concrete is a share of the mellowing agent that killed that hero of so many international buskers--Elvis. In front of a sign that reads "Will Work for Percocet," Faux Jean begins to crank out the hits and waits for the fans to come a-runnin'.
A few fans go for the bait. The most ardent of Faux Jean's followers is a large, flamboyant-looking man with a white panama hat and quick-shifting eyes who has bounded down off the bus to stare Faux Jean straight in the face. When Faux Jean howls, "Are you gonna fall in lo-ove?" the man smiles a wide, toothy grin.
"What do you think of this guy's music?" we ask, pointing to Faux Jean.
"It's FAAAAAAAN-TASTIC!" the man bellows. Then he struts straight past Faux Jean toward the glossy rack of Dalai Lama books on display in the Barnes & Noble window behind him.
Suspicious, we ask, "You like the Dalai Lama book?" The man, still in a delirious swoon, looks back and beams, "It's FAAAAAAAN-TASTIC!" One can only imagine what this harsh critic would say about getting his car towed or experiencing a severe case of hemorrhoids.
A young woman with a ponytail stops and leans up against the building, listening intently for a good while until Faux Jean stops playing. She must be spellbound by the way his slick choruses slide into "Oooh-ahhhhhs." She must be transfixed by the sultry twang of Faux Jean's guitar. In a few days, she will become a frantic groupie begging Faux Jean to sign her chest with Revlon's Orange Crush. Did this woman come here to swoon along to Faux Jean's splendor?
"Um, I'm just waiting for the bus," she says awkwardly. Who has the Percocet when you need it?
Still, we're not the only ones misreading signals. A corporate swinger type emerges from a crowd of suits that has just slipped a fiver into Faux Jean's guitar case (so much for the economic downturn!). He's convinced he's having a grunge flashback. "Kurt Cobain!" he yells, desperately trying to get Faux Jean's attention. "KURT COBAIN!!"
Another woman stops on her way back to the office and tugs on her friend's shirt. "Wait, he's playing Violent Femmes!" she insists. A truckful of maintenance workers even stop their vehicle in the middle of the street, disrupting traffic so that they can bob their heads to Faux Jean's "Chartreuse Skirt." Did they stop solely to hear the music? "Yeah, I saw him play here last year," the driver says nostalgically. "I just love those Buddy Holly songs he plays."
When he pulls his truck away, five pedestrians, possibly mistaking Faux Jean for Bono, pull out their cameras and start flashing away.
Just before Faux Jean finishes performing, a thin, shifty-looking woman stops and looks as if she might throw in a quarter before her hands dip into Faux Jean's collection. But instead of stealing a dollar, she fumbles toward the Faux Jean stickers hidden inside. She swipes one, smiles sheepishly at Faux Jean, and walks away. Perhaps she has taken pity upon him: At the end of the hour, there still isn't very much money in there. And sadly, there's not a tablet of Percocet in sight.
FINAL EVALUATION: HE'S A SUPERSTAR, BUT HE DIDN'T GET FAR
Total earnings playing in the street for one hour: $10.03 (minus $1.25 for the sticker.)
Total amount contributed by City Pages Media Inc., in a moment of boosterism/pity: $2.00.
Average earnings made onMP3.com during one day:$2.25.
Result: Faux Jean is hired! Now someone go fetch the man a W-4, a pot of lip gloss, and some prescription downers. This guy has earned them.