Brick Lane on a Sunday is busy and full of distractions – overpriced hipster shops competing with old school market stalls. The smell of dozens of different types of food and the sound of several street musicians scattered along the way are all competing for your attention.
One of them is Lewis Floyd Henry. He treats his fluid, ever-moving audience to a repertoire of songs primarily in the classic rock vein with his headset microphone, electric guitar, and small drum kit.
He plays the songs hard and fuzzy and bluesy. Like so many other street musicians, Henry is a musician who has learned the skill of being a one-man band, keeping the beat on a small toy drum while playing guitar and singing. He doesn’t speak much in between songs, mainly a ‘Thank you’, but then again, a musician should be able to let the music speak for itself. While not always wholly keeping in time, his drumming provides a funky backbeat to his masterful guitar playing.
It’s hard – and maybe a little clichéd – not to think of Jimi Hendrix when watching Henry play. It all seems so easy goin’ and freestylin’. His playing is funky and dirty, yet his solos are crisp and clean, whether played sitting down, standing up, picking the strings with his teeth, or playing the guitar behind his back.
The repertoire consists of rock classics from the sixties and seventies and a heavy dose of the blues. Songs like Get It On by T.Rex and Jean Genie by David Bowie are slowed down and given a slightly darker treatment than the original versions.
As is always the case for a street musician, a large part of the crowd will inevitably pay attention for the about thirty seconds it takes them to walk by, so playing in the street is a real exercise in just letting go and just concentrating on the playing. Everyone’s got somewhere to go (shopping or lunching), and a street musician, however great they may be, will often be a brief distraction on the way to somewhere else. But many people also stop for several songs, and take pictures or film and most drop a few coins as well – after all, this guy is good.
According to Tower Hamlet’s Council website, Busking is permitted on Brick Lane between 8 am and 9 pm and must be limited to 30 minutes in one location. This means that musicians playing on Brick Lane must time their slots carefully and be ready to move to another spot where they can resume playing. This might also explain why, at one point during his slot, Henry asks one of the men watching him playing what time it is. I guess it’s not quite time for him to move to the next spot yet, because Henry doesn’t miss a beat; he just keeps on playing.
Lewis Floyd Henry setlist