He showed up on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago.
He commandeers the iron bench on Main Street below our apartment window to the left, in front of GoBerry's. I'd say he's in his late 20's or very early 30's. He looks sort of like a grad student.
This man plays guitar adequately like many of the street guys do. It's his singing that draws attention from onlookers on both sides of the street. You'd have to be very hard of hearing not to look. He's stands out because he yells when he sings and I mean yells sometimes as the very top of his lungs - carotid popping yells, more like bellowing, sometimes. It's intense and remarkably loud.
What I noticed in his style is that he doesn't pay much attention to intonation, and phrases tend to fall off into almost speaking. It's clear melodic lines are driven by the flow of words, and it's the words that give this young man away. They are full of pain, especially of the "Woman, you've done me wrong. You've broken my heart. You don't know what love is," variety. The words and sheer intensity of his singing point to anguish and then anger. He has a repertoire of only 3-4 songs it seems, but they all return to the same theme of betrayal.
I don't know if this is just his style, or he really has gone through a horrific break-up, but he tends to yell as much as sing or speak in the song. It's the yelling that gets people gawking. Many point and laugh because of the yelling. I'm not sure he notices all that much. His eyes are often closed. And folks aren't resonating with his anguish, real or portrayed. They look, point him out, and chuckle. Then they move on, which is too bad if he's really pouring out his heart to heal or free himself from the pain inflicted by someone who shouldn't have.
He's quickly become a curiosity like so many in this town who dress, talk and act radically unlike the mainstream. Northampton's diversity invites with relish free expression which can fall on the weird side sometimes, especially in the eyes of "weekenders." It's part of what makes Northampton, Northampton, I think.
He's not been around for a week and was here before only for two.
If he's hurting I'd like a chance to ask his him why. I'd also like to suggest he use the yelling judiciously, as a dramatic exclamation point not a comma. I think it'd be more powerful and evoke listening rather than pointing and gawking. He might even have something universal to say, but nobody likes to be yelled at repeatedly, especially by strangers.