The sound of the city

Streets of San Francisco: Catch the beat (and brass, and buckets, and accordions) of SF's iconic street musicians -- our exclusive interviews

Bucketman pounds on the pavement

STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO Do you have a favorite musician who plays outside in San Francisco? I'd name many, if I knew their names. There's the kid no older than 10 who led a two-piece rock band (himself on voice-guitar) through a great show to a growing crowd at Dolores Park, then played soccer immediately after. There's the guy at 24th Street BART who sounds like Johnny Cash. There's the man with the white guitar by San Francisco Center, and the guy who used to sing opera by Macy's. It's all too easy to miss the sound of life when your ears are plugged by little headphones. With that in mind, and with Heddy Honigmann's great 1998 documentary The Underground Orchestra as one inspiration, it seemed right to talk to some of the people who make music for those who listen. Thanks to Elise-Marie Brown, Nicole Gluckstern, D. Scot Miller and Amber Schadewald for their contributions to this piece. (Johnny Ray Huston)

Name: Antone Lee

What styles of music do you play? I play a mix of folk and modern country on my guitar. Most of my music is original.

Where are your favorite places to play? I usually like to play down here (Civic Center BART station) because of the great sound and acoustics in the hallway.

How long have you been gigging on the streets or underground? I've been playing on the streets since I quit my job 3 years ago. This is what I do for a living. It's pure joy.

What do you like about it and why do you do it? I like vibing off of people as they come and go. It's nice to play whatever I'm feeling at the moment.

What don't you like about it? Sometimes the people walking by can be sort of distracting. I usually just close my eyes and sink into the song.

Do you have recordings or a Web site? I have a MySpace ( where some of my songs are, but I have about thirty songs that I'm waiting to record.

What street musicians and other musicians do you admire? I really like Fiddle Dave. He's got a great original bluegrass sound. I also like Federico who plays more gypsy-styled café music.(Elise-Marie Brown)

Name: Ilya Kreymer

What styles of music do you play? I play eastern European music. A lot of Klezmer, Russian and Balkan music.

Where are your favorite sites to play? My favorite places to busk are the BART stations in the Mission, and also farmers' markets. I usually like to busk two or three times a week.

How long have you been playing on the streets or underground? For five months.

What do you like about it, and why do you do it? I like the fact that it gives me a chance to practice and I get to see how people react to the music. The acoustics in the 16th and 24th BART stations are especially good. It's also a good way to meet other musicians.

What don't you like about it? Obviously there's a lot of outside noise. You never know when you might be interrupted. Sometimes I might be doing really well and no one will be there to listen, but when I mess up more people might be around.

Do you have recordings or a Web site? I've actually got some recordings on reverbnation ( But I'm hoping to update it soon with more songs. I'm also working on having a band that plays Russian music, too.