OFTEN stationed outside Officeworks in Hargreaves Mall or near Coles, he cuts a distinctive figure with his dreadlocks, beaded jewellery, chequered shirt and well-worn ukulele. He does not disclose his full name but prefers the enigmatic stage name “Busker Dave”.
Busker Dave has been a full time busker for three years.
Busking was a gradual progression from his hobby of playing music in public for free.
While studying film and television in Melbourne he used to entertain fellow tram commuters with his songs.
“I made a lot of people smile in a 12-month to two-year period and everyone was like, ‘Why don’t you try busking’, but I didn’t want to do it for money,” he says.
These days busking is his occupation - he's usually on the streets performing for 10-15 hours a day - but the smiles are still what motivate him.
“You forget about the money side of things, it’s all about the smiles. I try to make 10,000 people smile a day and make people feel beautiful through music.”
“I’ve played to millions of people around Australia but not on any massive stage, I’ve played to the ones and twos.”
Busker Dave is a seasonal nomad. He moves between Byron Bay, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Fremantle, Batemans Bay, Lismore, Ballina and Bendigo. Wollongong will soon be added to the mix.
Despite the constant change of location, he says he’s a “local” in every town, rather than a visitor.
“I actually feel like I live everywhere in Australia at the same time,” he says.
“I’ve got all these favourite local shops in all these towns and cities in Australia and when I’m there I’ve got local friends everywhere.”
"I find when I return to a place, I get people running up saying, 'Busker Dave you're back in town'."
His transient lifestyle has given him a different perspective on life.
“So many people are held prisoner to the past or what’s going on in the future and as someone who moves around I’m removed from that vibe of what’s coming up or what’s been.”
Standing in one spot for hours has made him an observer of human behaviour.
He notices the same individuals rushing to work in the morning, buying lunch at midday and bustling home in the evening.
Busker Dave makes it a personal challenge to get those people to stop, look up from their mobile phones and enjoy something in the present.
“People are so self-obsessed these days just thinking about their own problems,” he says.
“I think I give them a break away, even for one moment.”
He can tell numerous stories of his music having a profound impact on passers-by.
Just the other day he met a woman in Eaglehawk who told him his lyrics helped her feel at peace about problems with her boyfriend.
His song was simple: "Yesterday's gone forever, tomorrow will never come, all you've got is today, just let it go."
“I think busking has a bigger impact on people’s lives than they realise.”
This is Busker Dave's second time in Bendigo and he plans to stay until the end of the year. He's found his favourite cafes and knows plenty of locals, especially other buskers. “There’s a big busking community here in Bendigo,” he says.
He has always felt a "special connection" to Bendigo since he lived with a friend in Melbourne who was originally from Bendigo.
Sadly the friend passed away but Busker Dave made sure he came to see Bendigo for himself. “Bendigo just nails that big city feel at the same time as being a country town.”