Jasmine Maki, MSUM Multimedia Journalism
Hobos. Drunks. Politicians. Lawyers. Store owners. Students. Dancers.
As a street musician, Eden Parker plays and interacts with a wide variety of people in downtown Fargo.
Some drop a dollar or two in his guitar case as they pass. Others sit and listen to him play on the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue.
“That’s my territory,” Parker said. Between Old Broadway and Dempsey’s Pub, it’s the most heavily trafficked corner in downtown Fargo, he said.
Leaving Eden / Eden Parker
“It’s quiet enough for people to hear, and they all have to walk right past it.”
Parker claimed that corner about three and a half years ago after playing on street corners all across the country.
Destination-less journey brings Parker to Fargo
Parker was living in Montana helping care for his sick grandmother in 2008.
“When she passed away, I just couldn’t really be around anymore, so I just packed my car with all my instruments and suitcases and hit the road,” Parker said.
With little money and no destination, Parker made his way across the country, stopping in Long Beach, Seattle, San Antonio, Denver and Las Vegas.
“I just traveled around for a while going from city to city,” he said. “I’d play on the corner until I made enough money to get to the next one.”
Before the trip, Parker had never played on a street corner but he knew he wanted to travel and didn’t have the money to do so.
“I figured, ‘I’ll be a street musician and just play on the street until I make enough to fill the gas tank and then go somewhere else’,” Parker said.
After traveling throughout the country for a few months, Parker decided to visit a friend attending North Dakota State University.
He planned to stay for a week, but plans quickly changed when he booked a show.
“I played an open mic at the Sidestreet Bar,” Parker said. “After the open mic, they’re like ‘you’re really great. We want you for a show in June.’”
Parker said he thought “that’s awesome, but its March right now and that’s like three months away.”
He talked with his family and decided to wait it out, play the show and then move on.
“But by the time June rolled around, I had shows booked from June until December in town,” he said.
Parker continued to book shows in the area, so he continued to stick around.
“It was a very happy accident that I came here,” he said.
Although Parker is now a well-known Fargo musician playing at many of the local venues, he still continues to play on the street-corner for extra cash.
Parker interacts with listeners on the street
Playing on the street corner gives Parker an opportunity to interact and connect with FM downtowners.
He said the main difference from playing a show is that he has to constantly work to capture audience attention.
During a show, the audience consists of people who have paid to see him, so they are fully invested and “in it to win it.” Comparatively, during a street performance, the audience is any passers-by.
“You have maybe five, 10 seconds before they pass you to catch their attention, so you really have to be on top of your game all the time and just be engaged and ready to make them stop and pay attention for long enough to toss you some change,” he said.
Parker’s favorite time to play on the street is between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. when people are out at the bars. He said he makes $70 to $80 on a bad night and $200 to $250 on a good night.
“I’ve had 50s thrown into my guitar case before,” he said. “I’m never sure if it’s an accident or if it’s on purpose, but it’s awesome.”
As people throw money into his case, he takes a second to say ‘thank you’ before continuing the song. He also tells stories and talks to listeners between songs.
“I have a lot of fun playing in the streets,” Parker said. “I’ve met so many cool people down here.”
Downtowners contribute to the music
Many of the interactions Parker has had on the street have landed him shows and news coverage, furthering his career.
“(Playing on the street) was a really good way to get a jump start into the music scene here,” Parker said.
He enjoys playing downtown because he gets to connect with a variety of people including other musicians, who will sometimes join him on the corner to play a song. Or dancers will come by and start break-dancing on the street.
It’s really neat to have people that enjoy it and contribute some of their own art as well,” he said.
Eleventh Hour Angel / Eden Parker