Street performing brother band to hit TransLink Skytrain stations

Photos by Robin Grant

It’s not a lifelong career objective, but buskering in Vancouver's public train stations helps the Dawson brothers develop their musical talents.

Members of the local Indy band Bees Make It, Graham, 25, and Ben, 30, are one of 11 new musicians that TransLink has licensed to perform at Waterfront, Vancouver City Centre, Granville Street and Commercial-Broadway train stations for one year, starting in July.

 Graham on the bongos and Ben on the guitar first launched their career as street performers a couple years ago.  

“We saw a guy doing it, and we're like, ‘That's a good idea.’ Go out and just have fun playing and see what people think,” Graham said.

Street performance is an excellent opportunity to develop style without the pressure of a paid performance and play for an eclectic audience, the brothers explained.

"Busking is a different feeling than a show where people go and pay. Instead, you get people just passing by," Graham said. "You kind of get this interesting feedback from people of all ages and types."

During the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the brothers performed in front of large international street audiences. Their performance was so popular that police in charge of managing crowds made space for them, despite not having an official license, the brothers said.

In their band, Bees Make It, the Dawson brothers play acoustic alternative rock music. Formed in 2011, the band performs original songs and occasionally covers by well-known, pop stars.

The Stubborn Lights is the band's first album, which was released in 2012. The brothers wrote ten of the 11 songs performed in the album with one song written by pop-star legend David Bowie called Andy Warhol.

TransLink held auditions at its 26th annual busker event called: "So You Think You Can Busker" on June 18 to replace former buskers who didn't renew the year-long license. 

Forty-one applicants auditioned for positions. They featured a myriad of instruments including the sitar, wooden slot drums, electronic devices and string instruments. But only eleven were picked to fill the vacancies.

The judges: TransLink's Drew Snider and Paul Cheng, and 24 Hours' Erica Bulman were looking for musicians with broad appeal, instead of musicians that fit into a niche market.

"We asked: does it sound good and fit into our transit system?" said Paul Cheng. "I didn't think it would be as hard as it was to judge."

The Dawson brothers fit the TransLink model perfectly, according to Erica Bulman, who said she was charmed by their complementary fedora hats and unique style.  

"They scored high in ability. And had enormous presence," Bulman said. "I was glued to them during the performance ... They have a reassuring presence which is very appropriate for the transit."

The brothers described the audition as feeling "like American Idol," but encouraged musicians to do it, if they "just want to go out and play."  

And now, with a new album, the brothers have additional incentive to perform. "Hopefully, we'll sell some of our CDs," Ben said. 

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