“I’m a residentially challenged entertainment engineer,” says one-man-band Ran Diego, who has been busking the Gaslamp for around two years. Usually seen performing on Fourth or Fifth Avenue between E and K streets, Diego says, “I end up playing different spots every night. Currently, police do not require a permit to busk, so I compete with panhandlers, cupshakers, spangers, sign fliers, and puppy pimps.”
Asked to explain those last three, Diego says, “A spanger is a spare-changer. A sign flier is a spanger who communicates via signs like ‘will work for cash’ and ‘need a beer.’
“A puppy pimp uses a puppy to solicit donations, as in ‘my puppy is hungry.’ A few weeks ago, a lady with a puppy sat down right in front of me at Fifth and Market. She was so close, people couldn’t pass between her and my tip hat. A lot of people try to piggyback off buskers.”
Some areas are ducat dead zones. “I played the Embarcadero for three hours, during the day, with hundreds of people passing by. Zilch.”
Biggest tip? “A hundred dollars. I was just jamming away with another musician, doing some original jams. The guy [who tipped] must have really liked it. But, since the economy tanked, tips are way down....
“I usually wait until dark to play, after people have had a meal and a few drinks. That’s when we all loosen up a bit.”