Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stockholm’s Worst Street Performer

I found myself wandering around Stockholm today with a friend in search of princess cake. The most delicious cake ever. And it was surprisingly difficult to find in the Södermalm area. But we were not to be denied. And so we wandered into Gamla Stan. Because if there’s one place you can find princess cake it is in the ultimate tourist destination.

And the first place we walked into did in fact have some. But only one piece. And that just wasn’t going to cut it. So on we went. Into Järntorget. And there we found ourselves two delicious pieces of cake. And sat outside despite the wind. All in all a lovely little afternoon adventure. Little did we know that it was going to improve dramatically.

Because right before us a street performer was setting up. Taking his sweet time. He even stopped in the middle of his set-up to smoke a cigarette. And keep in mind he’s a street performer. It’s not like he has a whole lot that needs to be set-up. That’s kind of the thing with street performers. They can ply their trade anywhere there is a street.

Anyway, finally he managed to get himself ready. He even donned a lovely red and black little costume. He looked like he belonged on a checkerboard. Instead he was on a small fold-out bench in the middle of Gamla Stan. And he started talking. In English. He knew his target market was tourists at least. Good work. Unfortunately, it kind of went downhill from there.

Somehow he managed to convince about 10 or 15 people to stop and stare at him. Seeing as how he wasn’t really doing anything no one came too close. Finally, he lit a torch. And laid it on the ground. Then he picked up two knives and threw them in the air and caught them. He did not juggle them. He threw them up and caught them with the same hand he used to toss them. This drew a few curious people closer. Mostly kids. Young boys to be exact. Who are drawn to knives and fire.

At this point everything went to hell. He began by saying that he wouldn’t perform unless there were enough people who were watching because otherwise it just wasn’t fun and he didn’t like doing it. Because apparently street performing is for the performers enjoyment, not the audience. Silly me. Surprisingly, his threatening tactics didn’t really go home here in peace loving Stockholm. But he then promised to do a couple of tricks to attract a few more people. He even promised a sexy fire show. A good idea really.

But once again, his ego got the best of him. And he demanded that people move in closer. Everyone was still a bit skeptical and staying a few feet back. Possibly because of his threatening nature and the fact that he had fire and knives at his disposal. No one moved. He repeated his demand and a mom and little boy moved closer with a middle aged fellow moving in after them. And that’s it. No one else moved. And that’s when he decided he’d had enough. He said that he only performed for people he liked and since no one was moving in closer and no one was gathering around to watch him he didn’t like them. So he stopped.

Seriously. He packed up his knives and fire. And walked away. It was incredible. Obviously, what little crowd he had dispersed. I couldn’t believe it. A street performer basically was striking because of working conditions. Now having never performed on a street before in any capacity I don’t really know the ins and outs of the business. But on a windy day, with day light waning and the dinner hour approaching, I’m just not sure if the Eric Cartman “You can’t come” technique was really the right marketing strategy.

My friend threw out the idea that, this being Sweden (you know the Swedish welfare state and the Swedish model and all), perhaps he was on the city payroll and didn’t really have to rely on the tips of his audience, thereby allowing him to not have to perform on the street. Despite being a street performer. This seems like a breach of contract and job description. But anyway, this is all conjecture.

We decided to wander on because it was getting windy and cold and sitting watching a street performer pout, while unique, wasn’t really holding my attention any longer. So we moved on and decided we would circle Gamla Stan and return to see if he had decided to plow through.

He did. This time he had an even smaller crowd. Seven people max. All kids. All up close, so at least that part of his demand was met. Apparently he had decided to get over himself. Or maybe he realized that it was about five in the evening and he had to bring in a little income for the day. Whatever the reason for his unwillingness to perform on the street, he was by far the worst street performer I had ever seen.

Welcome to Sweden.


  1. haha if you're at södermalm in need of a prinsesstårta, go to bananza XD they kick ass, and do they have them in the us?
    coz I've got a friend in england who had never seen it before I shower him one.. and I agree with you 100%


    I have to get some tomorrow now.. damn you! hahah

  2. Prinsesstårta is ridiculously tasty and that street performer does sound like the worst ever. But, maybe the pouting was part of his act?

  3. Exactly! One day this street artist will be famous, and you look at him on TV, saying 'I saw him years ago when he was nobody. But he was brilliant even by then' LOL!

  4. Prinsesstårta måste nog vara något utav det bästa som finns! Tätt efterföljt av glass med jordgubbar.. kaffe och kanelbulle..
    Konstigt att den inte lyckats plöja sig utanför landets gränser?
    Jag har då aldrig sett en prinsesstårta utomlands vad jag minns, knappt ens i Danmark.

  5. @lea - it is amazing. sorry, but I bet once you take that first bite you'll forgive me for reminding you that it was time for a bite.

    and thanks for the tip. I'll have to check that place out.

    @robban - agreed again. you know... I thought so at first. but it was just too much of a pout. I mean everyone left. if it was part of his act he should have held it for like 15 or 20 seconds so people started to walk away and then done something amazing to bring them back in. but once again... I am not a street performer. so I dont really know.

    @smek - I hope that this is the sort of thing that rockets you to fame in Sweden. but maybe and if so I will look back fondly on that day.

    @freja - so in keeping with my tradition I tend to just summarize real quick the swedish then respond in english (just saying so you dont think Im trying to convince you to write in english. I quite like it in swedish. gives it a very international and sophisticated feel. which is obviously what Im going for)

    anyway... "princess cake is has to be some of the best stuff out there. followed closely by ice cream and strawberries. and coffee and cinnamon rolls. strange that it hasn't made its way outside of sweden. have never seen it in another country. not even denmark."

    so thats basically the idea... and I agree with it all. I don't think I have seen princess cake in any other country either. and its a damn shame. because its amazing. does this exist else where? is it a swedish phenomenon along the lines of ikea? someone has to have the answers to this.

  6. This princess cake got me curious. I have actually eaten it here not knowing it! At the job of course. I love marzipan covers on cakes. I think there may be the same kind of cakes in Finland but then again I'm not an expert on this. I bet it has millions of calories :)

  7. it's probably one of the most unhealthy baked goods ever. which is probably why it tastes so damn good.

  8. now i totaly dont expect this to get a reply but PLEASE tell me you have ran in to the harmonica man?

  9. Im not familiar with the harmonica man at all Im afraid.

  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5xx4cAdMuQ

    yes that is a radio in his hand and yes its playing white noise

  11. oh dear god. yes. I have seen him. and he is glorious. the harmonica man. not god.