Longtime busker makes temporary move due to St. John's 'Big Dig'

Steve Dorian has spent about 15 years busking at the same corner of George and Water streets in downtown St. John's, but he's temporarily made his way down the road while his usual haunt is torn apart by construction.

"The downtown is a mess," said Dorian.

"It's not just a mess, it's noisy."

Water Street is undergoing necessary maintenance work on its outdated water system. That work involves tearing up sections of road, different sections at a time, to allow some traffic to get through while work is underway.

And while that work is happening, Dorian has moved down to Water Street West, out in front of the North Atlantic gas station and Tim Hortons building.

Gavin Simms/CBC

It's an unusual place for a busker, Dorian acknowledged, but he said he doesn't do it for the money.

"Sometimes the way they react is, 'What's he doing there?' It's obvious what I'm doing here. 'Why is he there' is the question people want to know — so now you know," he said with a laugh.

"It's not Bowring Park, but you know something, I live on the hill right behind me, so it's just a walk down the hill and I'm there. A nice cup of coffee and everything."

In the years he's spent busking downtown, Dorian said, there have certainly been a lot of changes to the downtown scene.

"Downtown is madness. Even on the best kind of day when the traffic's flowing, it's madness. There's a million bikers, there's tractors, trucks, buses and every kind of screaming loud thing, right? It's impossible. And I often question why I even go there," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"I can't pay attention all the time to what's going on when I'm at this. I've gotta give [the music] my attention, so a guy could get run over pretty friggin' easy."

'We can't hear ya over the noise'

The changing downtown scene, paired with a lack of hard cash, makes it hard to make it worthwhile sometimes, Dorian said. But thankfully, that's not what it's about for him.

"There's no money left in the world, I don't think. If it was about that I'd be foolish to be here. That's the truth: it'd be foolish. I just love entertaining people. I get a kick out of it when they recognize a tune," he said.

"I work hard at that. And it's not always on-the-money accurate, but it's an interpretation, half the time, of what a song is."

Dorian said he isn't the only one who has noticed the noise level on Water Street, and in his mind, a good solution would be turning Water Street into a pedestrian-only area.

Gavin Simms/CBC

"Traffic is terrible. They should redirect the traffic, make that one street all foot traffic, and redirect the traffic on Harbour Drive. That would help immensely," he said.

"Even the people that are sitting outside in them restaurants and eating and drinking or whatever they're doing out around, they deliberately made it like that so that people could sit outside and enjoy the day. But now you're out there and there's screaming motors so you can't hear yourself think. I've heard that a thousand times — people call me over and say, 'Geez, can you play right here for us? Because we can't hear ya over the noise.'"

That's not a likely scenario to get approved in St. John's, Dorian acknowledged.

In the meantime, he'll play his tunes at his new — albeit temporary — location while the "Big Dig" on Water Street continues, adding he'll go back to his usual spot once things literally quiet down.

"Once the dig is over, absolutely. I've got a lot of friends down there and they treat me with kindness and respect, they really do," he said.

"You can't stand there and play music in that; it's just crazy. If anyone thinks I left there for any other reason, they're wrong. It's just the noise."

Zach Goudie/CBC

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