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The official student news site of Coppell High School

Coppell Student Media

The official student news site of Coppell High School

Coppell Student Media

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Street musicians Larry Hunt and Edward Jackson performing for tourists and citizens. Photo by Stephanie Alexander

By Stephanie Alexander

Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO – Hungry for lunch after three hours of convention sessions, student journalists are ready to take on another day in San Francisco. The sound of drums was heavy on the corner of Fourth and Market Street.

There is a man beating on a drum set with a pictures of him and Will Smith, taped to the front of his aged bass drum. His drum sticks are on fire as he carries on his set. He later extinguishes the fire with his mouth and continues to perform.

Walking down the streets of any large city calls for street vendors and performers. San Francisco being one of the beginning hot spots for the hippie movement in the 1960s, the musical roots definitely have soul on the streets.

Talent is a gift that cannot be taken from you by anyone, even if it is the cops that are trying to stop you from doing your thing.

“I went to jail for this before. They charged me for being aggressive but they [judge] know me and were like, ‘Why do they keep messing with you? You don’t do anything wrong, get out of here,” street performer Larry Hunt said.

Near Union Square off Market Street in downtown San Francisco, Hunt, 55, has been performing for decades and now is having a petition for him to stay there playing .

“[Local property owners] say we are making too much noise, but you have all this traffic and construction going on and we are just in the midst of it, why are they not stopping them?” Hunt said. “It is a culture. So many artists started out playing on the streets and I’m trying to keep that alive. It’s about being fun and being happy. Bringing a vibe to the neighborhood.”

Hunt, a Kansas native who moved to San Francisco to reconnect with his mom and brother, was always told by his dad if he didn’t do anything else in life, stick with music because it will keep you alive.

“It really has. This is my life and I am so happy,” Hunt said.

At first glance, he looks like a typical guy on the streets trying to raise money to get food. But when you stop your fast paced city walk and watch him perform, you know what’s going on.

“I live in the community, I have my rights to play here. I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m entertaining people,” Hunt said. “You can’t stop me and you won’t stop me. I’ll be doing this till I die.”

Anyone can bang some drums and try to make music, but with Hunt having over 50 years of playing and a dancing, bass playing partner, Edward Jackson, to perform with, this duo surely stands out on the streets.

In 1998, Jackson, a Detroit native, called San Francisco his new home and practiced his music and dancing skills underground in the BART subways.

“I knew San Francisco had a long history of street performers and artists, so this was just it for me. I thought, wow I can do my own thing on the street and not get hassled,” Jackson said.

Jackson was moved by American tap dancer Savion Glover and wanted to dance. The ultimate inspiration for his work though, was the one and only Michael Jackson.

“He took the art form to a whole other level and did something just so amazing with it,” Jackson said. “If you can reach someone with your art, whether it’s with a camera, writing or painting that’s where it’s at.”

Out of the subway, Jackson saw Hunt performing and there eclectic styles connected to make the street group known today as Urban Funk Machine.

Urban Funk Machine features a consistent drumming beat with techno noises all over and on top of it. Pedestrians stop and feel the bass coming from the speakers, but there is no guitar making that noise. All of those deep, techno sounds are coming from Jackson’s iPad, as he is using the app Auria to record the hand made beats as they perform.

“We want to do something different, something that no one has really seen before,” Jackson said.

They use these recordings to burn on a CD and sell on the streets when they can. The CDs when fast on Friday afternoon.

With street careers comes the prejudice and stereotype of being dirty and/or homeless. Urban Funk Machine opposes this common thought.

Hunt gets paid royalty checks ever so often for his drumming bits and has had a touring history with bands all over, most famously Greg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band.

“When I was 11 years old some hippie guy told me to start listening and practice The Allman Brothers Band music because he said I would be playing with them one day and sure enough I did,” Hunt said. “Greg Allman saw me playing at a club one time and right there he said I got the job to play with him.”

Hunt also was featured drumming in the beginning of the Will Smith film The Pursuit of Happyness, doing what makes him happy.

Jackson is a married Christian with two kids at Salem University in Oregon, one pursuing marine biology and the other in business. Other than music, Jackson is working on his own businesses and working on something called ‘midi shoes’, which are known as music shoes for tapping.

This lifestyle and career of theirs, is their choice and they love it. They embrace it with the help of everyday fans and tourists and the passion for the music in their heart.

“Most of street performers just play for the money, but I do it because this is what makes me happy,” Hunt said. “It comes from my heart.”

For now, these passionate musicians are just hoping they are allowed to stay entertaining the locals and tourists while doing what they love.

“I love all this technology I’ve been using,” Jackson said. “Just wait till one day I will be plugging in foot pedals into my iPad.”

Four members of The Sidekick staff and adviser Chase Wofford and KCBY adviser Irma Kennedy traveled to the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco on April 25-28.

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