If you’ve ever walked around downtown anytime other than the dead of winter, you’ve most likely heard Kevin Clark playing guitar and singing somewhere close by.
Clark is Concord’s resident busker (one of them, anyway). Most of the time he can be found near the clock tower at the entrance to Eagle Square, but plays all over the Main Street sidewalk, and he’s out there just about every day.
He’s been playing guitar for 50 years, and he’s been working the streets of Concord for the past six. He used to play some harmonica and sax, and he knows a few songs on piano, but the guitar is Clark’s primary tool – and he’s a skilled craftsman with it.
We went looking for him around Eagle Square last week but, surprisingly, he wasn’t there, even on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon. On the walk back to the car, we found him by Phenix Hall, finger-picking away on his Fender acoustic, cooler full of dollar bills and coins by his side.
We approached him between songs and he was nice enough to stop and tell us a little bit about what he does.
“I play covers,” he said. “I’ve got a few originals, instrumentals, but not too much.”
Clark is a big fan of folk tunes, and he counts Bruce Springsteen, Cat Stevens, John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot as his most favorite artists. He regularly plays several songs by each of them, plus a lot more.
For the most part, he teaches himself every song. “I can learn songs just by listening,” he said.
When he was a kid, he had siblings who played, so he picked a little up from them. Since then, though, he’s been teaching himself.
“I go on YouTube here and there (to learn songs), but I don’t spend too much time learning new stuff,” he said. “My go-to, when people ask me to play a song, is ‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens.”
Unlike many live performers, Clark plays no matter how many people are listening, or for how long. Given the nature of playing on the sidewalk, it isn’t exactly the type of environment that lends itself well to big crowds that stay for hours.
That doesn’t bother him, though.
“I definitely enjoy it,” he said. “If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it day in and day out.”
He doesn’t play bar gigs or anything like that at the moment, though he’s been thinking about performing at open mic nights at Tandy’s, he said. That means if you want to hear him, you’ll have to find him on Main Street.
He usually starts around 10:30 a.m. and stays “until whenever,” he said. Sometimes blistering rain or sweltering heat can cut a set short. Sometimes he’s not there because he’s grabbing a meal at the Friendly Kitchen.
Clark said playing for passers-by is his only job right now, so if you do hear him, don’t be afraid to toss a buck or two into his case – it’s a small price to pay for relaxing, soothing music setting the mood for your downtown stroll. Plus, it never hurts to support the arts, or the people creating that art.