Chris Anderson began drumming on plastic buckets at the New Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago.
He was 8 years old, and he and cousin Marcus played hard and loud.
But, that’s not a proper drum kit. So the choir held a fundraiser for the right equipment.
He continued playing with vigor and soon had to duct-tape the heads.
This led to playing softer, with more precision instead of busting the drumhead. And he learned by listening, not reading sheet music.
It’s been a 32-year journey to setting up and playing on the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street.
Anderson played with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, a street band that traveled to do their work from Chicago to New York to New Orleans and Los Angeles. They played in high-traffic, high-visibility areas like Chicago’s Magnificent Mile or New Orleans’ French Quarter, New York’s Times Square and L.A.’s Hollywood Boulevard.
Anderson says, “It was crazy, playing and selling CDs, often more than 300.”
When the band got off Amtrak in New York, “It was so crowded we just set up with luggage and instrument cases all around” and began playing.
But they got the boot because they lacked a permit.
Recording artists Erykah Badu, Mos Def and Maxwell heard Anderson playing and invited him to join studio sessions.
He joined the band Gorillaz and when their tour ended in Seattle in 2010, he stayed to pursue music here.
“Being a solo artist is easier. I get to curate my own music, my own ideas.”
Two months ago he quit his job assembling parts for treadmills to do full-time busking.
It takes an hour to arrange eight cymbals, five drums, two speakers, two flower bouquets and two cinnamon incense sticks.
The bouquets are support for the nearby vendors “and the experience for people walking up.” The incense is to bless the drum set and to honor his late mother, Mary.
His approach across from Pike Place Market is “draw them in and knock them out. … Get them dancing. Bring the community together.”
Anderson says YouTube backdrop recordings of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson or Earth, Wind & Fire help do that.
He feels he’s made the corner better. The high-decibel, bullhorned proselytizers have ceased competing with drumming. “And residents have welcomed me.”
He says, “I like the people smiling, having a good time.”
“Music is a universal language. Communication is the key.”
And now another opportunity is about to begin. The Mariners have invited him into the stadium to play an hour or so beginning Aug. 13.
After the seventh inning, he’ll pack up and relocate near The Mitt sculpture by Gerry Tsutakawa at First Avenue South and South Royal Brougham Way and play for departing baseball fans.