Ferry Plaza performer drums up noisy controversy

A downtown lawyer who said a Ferry Building street performer who beats on plastic buckets and metal pots interferes with his work has filed a $100,000 claim against The City.

When John King’s beats reverberate through the hustle and bustle of the waterfront shopping area on Tuesdays and Saturdays — farmers market days — they also drift into the adjacent Ferry Building.

“The Port Authority, despite repeated notification, has failed to stop John F. King II from banging on his plastic drums,” William McGrane wrote in the claim filed with The City in November. “The nuisance at issue here effectively makes it impossible for Claimant to work while Mr. King performs.”

McGrane declined an Examiner invitation to listen to King’s percussion from inside his office. The 60-year old lawyer told The Examiner he has “abandoned” his claim, but did not provide The Examiner with documents to show that the claim was no longer being pursued.

The Ferry Building and outside plaza are both owned by The Port of San Francisco, according to Port spokeswoman Renee Dunn, who added that permits are not required to play on the plaza. Dunn said she couldn’t comment on McGrane’s claim because city attorneys consider it to be “active.”

King said his bongo, conga and timbale drums were stolen a year ago, but his improvised drum-set has been popular with passing crowds. He’s finally saved enough money to buy new gear, he said and will combine the pots and buckets with $8,000 worth of new drums. “The idea with the pots and pans has just been overwhelmingly well-received; people love it,” the 48-year-old retired chef said. “They’re not just randomly collected and assembled pots and pans — I tried to arrange them in an octave pattern from high to low.”

King vowed to keep playing in the plaza, where a white bucket quickly fills with bills from passing strangers. He declined to say how much money he makes, but he said his daily earnings “fluctuate like crazy.”

The Sacramento-based percussionist said he plans to work with other artists on the plaza this year, including circle drummers, a clarinetist, a saxophonist and a jazz guitarist.

jupton@examiner.com

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