It’s a relatively quiet mid-afternoon along Government Street, as buskers Dave Harris, known affectionately as the One Man Band; and Peter Janz, aka Johnny Bomblast, perform in front of Munro’s Books.
Roommates as well as musical partners, the pair have, like all entertainers, endured a tough musical year turned upside down by COVID-19 restrictions.
But they are back on the street making some money, brightening locals’ days and walking on air with the release of Clouds, an album of songs written, performed and arranged by Janz and Harris.
“People are starved for entertainment. There’s not a lot of options right now if you want live music, and we’re one of the options,” Harris said.
The album features songs about Victoria and life in the pandemic, from Love in the Time of Corona, Sick Feeling and Pink Blossoms, to nods to Janz’ roots such as Prairie Soil.
Janz, who had a handful of songs on the go and co-wrote other new ones with Harris, said people familiar with their busking material may be “pleasantly surprised” with the end result of the album.
“I think people … if they’ve watched us busk, the album will give them a bit more of that, ‘Oh, so this is what they can do if they could do it all,’” Janz said.
A six-week project recorded and engineered at their home, Clouds is a product of Janz and Harris’ efforts to stay musically active at a time when busking and other performance opportunities were limited.
Last spring, when public health concerns shut down most forms of live entertainment, you didn’t see buskers in the usual spots. As the new normal set in and safety measures were installed – minus the tourists – the environment changed, Harris said.
By June the duo was playing at such unlikely places as the Johnson Street bridge, not lucrative, but at least there were people out. They reinvented their performance routine doing a socially distanced show in Macdonald Park last summer.
Janz’ day job at a downtown shelter helped maintain structure in his life, “but musicians still have to make music,” he said.
“In the early days when we were kind of locked down, we started a once-a-week Facebook live show where I’d quiz Dave on music stuff. We called them Isolation Interviews and we kept up that way and this album came out of it as well.”
The installation of patios along Government Street last year increased the traffic flow and enhanced the feel of this downtown corridor. Locals who avoid the Inner Harbour were experiencing the duo’s live performances and connecting with them.
“I actually loved the season, it was so much fun playing for local Victorians, I really liked seeing the same faces,” Janz said.
The album officially drops April 10, but can be purchased digitally on Bandcamp. The pair have set up a Google document to take pre-orders for CD or vinyl copies, but you can also stop by their regular spot most days on Government Street.