At the Gorge Canada Day Buskers Corner, the best performances are random.
Rob Wickson recalls seeing two long-haired men wander by who looked like “carbon copies of the Allman Brothers.”
It turned out they played bass and drums. They later helped create a five-part harmony in a rendition of the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water.” Listeners gathered nearby stood and cheered.
Another year, two guitarists who had never met one another played a 15-minute jam session.
“People’s mouths were open, they couldn’t believe it,” Wickson says.
He has organized Buskers Corner, near the Tillicum Road intersection of Gorge Road, for seven years. He provides instruments, amps and speakers under a tent. Instead of lining up musicians to play for money, he sets up the equipment, starts playing something familiar and lets people come to him.
“I let it unfold, I don’t plan it.” He usually isn’t playing alone for very long and manages to fill the stage with around 20 performers every year.
Wickson isn’t a full-time musician. He’s a local economist and president of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association, which puts on the annual Gorge Canada Day Picnic.
The event already features professional musicians, he says, including local Beatles cover band, The Sutcliffes.
He offers Buskers Corner to “folks who are artists in garages” – people like him who don’t get many opportunities to perform.
“This gives me a chance to come out of my basement and play once in awhile.”
While Buskers Corner isn’t a fundraiser, Wickson wants to start collecting donations to build a gazebo at the Gorge Canoe and Kayak Club, which runs between $2,000 and $3,000.
Such a venue could act as a performance space and would be an attractive addition to the park.
The stage is open from noon to 4 p.m., and all kinds of music is welcome, as long as it’s appropriate for a family picnic and not too loud.
For more information, visit www.gorgetillicum.ca/picnic.php.
On the Gorge
Event: The 13th annual Gorge Canada Day Picnic
Where: Along the Gorge Waterway from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What’s happening: Live music all day – including Buskers Corner on Gorge Road and on stage near Craigflower historic schoolhouse – pancake breakfast, Canada Day market, canoe rides, family parade, kids’ activities and a classic car show.
Parking: Available at Esquimalt Gorge Park, just off Tillicum Road. The No. 11 bus also runs regularly down Gorge Road.