Toronto Buskerfest 2010: Victor Rubilar's grand finale, juggling 5 soccer balls
Hot was the word of the day on Saturday Aug 28 2010, when we took in the Buskerfest in Toronto. It hit 32C and high humidity. There performers were sweating profusely, as was the audience. Arriving at about 12:45pm we took in the shows of Victor Rubilar from Argentina (juggling soccer balls), Mat Ricardo from the UK (balancing, juggling) and saw a couple of others. It was really crowded and we could not see much, which was to bad.
We got a TTC family pass and took an additional 2 kids, so 6 of us went down, all for $10CAD. Parking was free at the subway station. For us this is the best way to get down town.
Victor Rubilar is a juggler from Argentina and brings a Latin flavour to his show. Of course he is crazy about two special subjects: soccer and women. He juggles soccer balls very well, as well as spins them. His grand finale was juggling 5 soccer balls. His comedy centers around ogling the women in the audience, which he pulls off very well. He plays the romantic lover with various audience members. One issue I have was that he placed an audience member in the middle of the performance area, blocking our view of his performance. Still, he was a professional and patient performer. When some kids spontaneously ran into his performing area, he rolled with them with ease. Victor is very comfortable in front of his audience. His bikini routine was very surprising and unexpected. He is so dedicated to his craft.
Did I mention that the heat was oppressive? The City of Toronto had closed off Front Street from Yonge to Jarvis for the Buskerfest. Victor Rubilar’s performance was at an intersection, so there was a lot of room for spectators. Other performers that drew a crowd were in the middle of Front Street, which is 2 lanes each way. These performances were so deep with people that it was very difficult to even bypass them. On the north side of the street some street vendors were cooking some souvlaki, the searing heat baking both the meat and pedestrians. This was not a convenient setup and I would venture to say that it was also unsafe. If there was an emergency there would be no way ambulance or police personnel on bike would be able to pass. In the middle of this corridor of barbecue a bicycle was locked to a street sign. I say the city should cut off the lock or cut through the bike for the safety of the public. Many people got cut up from the pedals of this bike.
I have not been to Buskerfest for a couple of years, but I would say that Front Street is not a good venue for this event. Buskers draw large crowds that assemble in a circular formation. Front street does not lend itself to this type of public event. There were people with small kids in strollers, the disabled in wheelchairs and people walking with their bikes, all that had great difficulty trying to bypass the crowds. Toronto could do a lot better in organizing the street for better pedestrian flow.
Toronto Buskerfest 2010: Victor Rubilar of Argentina spins two soccer balls and juggles one on his foot
I have often visited Prince Street in Montreal, where they regularly schedule buskers. They do it right in the Belle Province. The street is very wide in order to accommodate the large circular crowds. Front Street does not do the performers justice. It would have been much better to move all the vendors north, away from the sidewalk so that pedestrians could bypass the large crowds. On top of this it was apparent that some stores on Front Street detested the Buskerfest. A specific hair salon would regularly tell people to move from their front door and window. Not only was this unfriendly but more than a little hostile.
Still, contrary to the Toronto I know, the people were very well behaved. Even in the oppressive heat there was no shoving and pushing, no major temper tantrums from kids, no swearing matches between pedestrians. Torontonians were actually civil with each other. I find this shocking to admit this, as well as saddened that this came as a surprise.
As we walked on Front Street it was very apparent that others were also suffering from the heat. Shade spots provided by buildings were in high demand. There were few areas to sit down, one of which was a “games” area, where people were playing board games. Some of their wooden boxes used for advertising worked very well as impromptu stools.
Interesting was the City of Toronto water exhibit, which was a large truck sized water bottle with 8 taps on each side. There were people there to explain that city water was healthier and better for the environment than bottled water. Water, which was refrigerated, was free for the taking, so you could fill up your water bottle as your leisure. I took the opportunity to wet down my face and cool off some in the shade of the truck. It was a marvelous marketing opportunity and a great public service. To the civil servant that thought of the water truck, a big cookie for you! I should have taken a photo but did not. I do appreciate the effort.
There was nothing happening at Centre stage when we passed by, though I did recognize it from Youtube videos we watched. There were few places for performers to perform, which was unfortunate. That meant that if you wanted to see many acts, you would have to attend Buskerfest for many hours and multiple days. This we could not do with the family. I suppose you should just try your luck and be happy with what you get.
Toronto Buskerfest 2010: Silver Elvis poses for photos
Toronto Buskerfest 2010: Mat Ricardo from the UK spins a silver tea tray perched on three spoons
Toronto Buskerfest 2010: Mat Ricardo whipping his diabolo up to speed
Mat Ricardo from the UK was the last performer we saw. Quaintly attired in trousers and suspenders, tie and top hat, he was sweating profusely. I could actually see him melting from the heat, poor chap. With his English accent he mocked the Americans, to the delight of the local crowd. The one hecker I heard the whole day was right behind me, and he was also from the UK! I suppose Mat got a taste of some home grown medicine? We are too polite here in Canada to heckle a street performer. Maybe we save our best for fellow Torontonians.
I did not see the start of Mat’s performance because it was much too crowded. The little weed, as usual, slid between adults for front row kid’s seats. This is to be expected. Mat started with three large serving spoons, one wood and two metal. Wedging them together on end, then spun and balanced a silver serving tray on the last spoon and put the first spoon in his mouth. His balance was quite grand.
People in the front rows were getting tired and started to semi kneel. This allowed me a better view of Mat’s performance. Once in a while their legs would cramp up, forcing them to stand up.
Mat then did his cigar box routine, where he started with three and quickly built up to 8. He finished with stacking the boxes brick style and balancing all 8 on his chin.
Next Mat went into his diabolo routine. He explains that the diabolo originated from China and is the predecessor of the yoyo. He checks the sun and wind, whips his diabolo up to speed and flings the rubber thing 3 stories high. As it comes down, the sun is in his eyes, the wind blows it off course and Mat sidesteps the diabolo as it come bouncing down to earth. It rebounds up about 8′. He decides to change his body position to not have the sun in his eyes and starts his diabolo tricks. Most of these tricks I did not see because others were blocking my view. My little weed tells me he was quite good and he wants to learn diabolo as well. Mat flings the diabolo up 3 stories a couple of times and successfully catches it before it hits the ground.
For Mat’s grand finale he sets a table with a tablecloth, flowers in a silver container, 4 servings of China for tea, and sugar and teapot on a silver tray. He then tells the crowd he will fling the diabolo up 3 stories. While it is in the air he will pull the tablecloth out from the table setting, without disturbing the place setting and catch the diabolo with the tablecloth. He show the audience that there are no magnets or such keeping the table setting on the table.
Even with the advice to watch the table and not the flying diabolo, at least half the audience watches the flying diabolo and misses Mat successfully pull the table cloth away from the table, leaving the place setting intact. It was a very showy ending.
Toronto Buskerfest 2010: Mat Ricardo's Grand Finale was to launch a diabolo 3 stories in the air, pull the table cloth from the table without messing up the China and silverware, then catch the diabolo with the tablecloth
I talked to Mat after his performance and asked him if he did unicycling and rola bola. He said he did it all in his 20 years as a performer but simply could not take all his equipment to his shows. He also wanted to stay firmly planted on the ground.
Toronto Buskerfest 2010: Witty Look's stash of unicycles
Toronto Buskerfest 2010: Daiki of Witty Look's 5 wheel unicycle
I really wanted to see the unicycle performance of Witty Look’s Daiki and Cheeky, from Japan. I had seen some of their performances on Youtube and was intrigued. Alas it was not meant to be. They performed at 08:00 on Saturday and we arrived at around 12:45pm. Since there was no performance schedule posted on their web site, we could not have known Whitty Look’s performance time. Poking me in the side was that their unicycles were still on site, enticing me but leaving me unrequited. Oh well, maybe next time. Their unicycles look meticulously maintained and were very colourful. I do like their white tires.
Overall the Buskerfest was good. The performers were entertaining, professional, and not mean to the audience. Still there is a little bit of improvement on the part of Buskerfest organizers. I would hate to see an emergency happen and not allow emergency personnel to quickly enter.