Fiddle Guitar Vocal duo the Summer Januaries– Sean Michael Robinson and Rachel Erin Robinson

Seattle in the Summer

The Summer Januaries at Westlake

Throughout the past year, whether we were in Italy or France or Florida or even Montana, Seattle in the summer was on our minds. Neither of us grew up here, but both of us moved here because of it–clear skies and lovely breeze, the perfect temperature, surrounded by the lush greenery created by the other nine months of rainy misery. It’s the season where we both fell in love with the city, the season where we first started playing together–the season where we fell in love.

After an absence of nine months, we returned to Seattle in May, and it seemed as though we’d beaten the summer weather here. We didn’t have much time to lament the overcast cold days though. There wasn’t much time for anything but playing. But after few weeks of drizzly busking and rained-out events the summer finally arrived.

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Disappear With the Season

Goodbye, Florida.

On the morning of March 10th we woke before dawn, packed up our instruments, wardrobe changes, and all of the necessary props, gear and snacks, met up with our film cast and crew, and rushed to the nearest abandoned field, just in time to catch the sun rising behind us for the first shot of our new music video. Just a few days before we had met with director Cody David Price to discuss our ideas for the shoot and to make a preliminary schedule. At just twenty years old Cody is at the beginning of his film career, but is already a veteran theater director and technician, having directed Anne Frank Superstar at the Orlando Fringe Festival two years before, to much acclaim. Cody brought with him his colleagues Grant Spruce and Chris Marchi, who would both be filming.

Also joining us at that early hour was Kiersten Valence, a phenomenal belly dancer who we had met a few months before, when we worked on a production of Anthony and Cleopatra together, and my father, Steve Olof Larson, who had decided to extend his visit to Orlando so he could hang out and cart us around on the day of the shoot.

 

Location # 1

Abandoned Field at Sunrise

The Summer Januaries filming a music video for their song "Two Little Clementines". With Cody David Price, Grant Spruce, Chris Marchi, and Kiersten Valence

The sun had yet to rise when we arrived at our first location, a large empty field conveniently located directly behind the housing development where we’d been staying. A magical morning fog covered the ground. And it was freezing! (check out our breath, visible in the sunrise closeups). We set up the case, hid the portable boombox we had cued up to the track to play along with, and started filming just as the sun began to rise. We had a little bit of trouble with the boombox – the track was skipping, possibly due to the moisture on the ground, and possibly due to the fact that it was a twenty dollar battery operated piece of junk– so we’d have to skip ahead with the playback every now and then to stay in sync. Technical issues aside, we were off to a good start. Everyone was happy with the way the first few shots turned out, and Sean had the last minute idea to get some footage of Kiersten, who had just learned how to hula hoop minutes before, hooping as the sun rose behind her.

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Smells Like America

Busking duo the Summer  Januaries. Sean Michael Robinson- guitar and vocals. Rachel Erin Sage- fiddle, vocals

September, just prior to leaving Seattle. Photo by Una Simone.

For the past month Rachel and I had been giving some serious thought to the question of what we’d be doing with ourselves now that winter was finally coming. It isn’t just a question of comfort—there’s a practical limit to how cold it can get and still have functional fiddle fingers, and how cold our audience can be and still be interested in sticking around long enough to enjoy us. And as the warmth slowly seeped out of Italy, the question suddenly seemed even more pressing.

Our first instincts were to travel to Istanbul, a busking-friendly cosmopolitan city full of vigor and life and slightly warmer weather. But looking at the projected weather averages made it clear that even in Turkey we would be faced with many, many days of not playing at all. We’d have to write off any time spent there in the winter months as a loss. Read More

Balloons in Napoli

The Summer Januaries busking with Napoli buskers

Every time we told someone we would be traveling to Napoli (i.e. “Naples”) as the last leg of our Italian trip, we received virtually identical responses. “No.” “No, not Napoli.” “Non.” This last remark was said emphatically, with stern face and wagging finger, by a Perugian pizza chef, himself a Neapolitan intensely proud of his incredibly delicious Neapolitan-style pizza, but completely convinced that our traveling to his home town to play would be certain disaster.

Even our friend Vince Conway, an international busker on the hammered dulcimer and a man not prone to exaggeration, told us to watch out for “street kids.” A few nights before our trip to the city I did some ill-advised googling and spent the next three hours reading about Napoli’s problems with petty crime and street theft of all stripes—tales of roving gangs comprised of senior citizen pick pockets, ceramic tiles masquerading as I-Pads and sold to gullible tourists, and bags stolen in drive-by attacks on motorcycle or scooter. Rachel had to accompany me on a long walk so I could calm myself enough to go to sleep.

But of course, if you’re worked up about the thought of getting scammed or robbed, having a midnight stroll around Rome on a Saturday might not be the ideal antidote. I spent the rest of our stay there feeling vaguely uneasy, and spent an awful lot of time thinking about my body and pockets and the people around me.

Fortunately, the train ride was reassuring. The train was almost entirely unoccupied, and one of the few people we did meet was actually another busker. He was a balloon man from Argentina, and he very kindly gave us the rundown on the best places to busk in Napoli. We didn’t take his suggestions as gospel, since a place that’s good for a balloon man is not necessarily good for unamplified music—but just the fact of his existence, his friendly demeanor and his willingness to share a long list of pedestrian streets we could play on, was a tremendous reassurance.

And then we stepped out of the train station. Read More

All Quiet on the Roman Front

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Sean and I arrived in Rome late Monday evening, checked into our hotel, and headed out into the night. Destination: Fontana di Trevi. We had done some research online about busking in Rome, and found evidence of recent legislation that was more restrictive than in the past, as well as tales of police confiscating instruments, CDs, and tips; but we had also seen posts, photos and videos of people who perform on the streets in Rome with varying levels of success. This left us hopeful about the possibility of being able to play, but also ready to resign fully to being tourists for the week if playing wasn’t possible. Read More