On any given day, you can find buskers playing in BART stations and on streets all over San Francisco. From classical violinists to drummers with kits assembled using an assortment of plastic containers, these talented and/or tenacious performers add spice to the daily soundtrack of traffic and chatter. Out of this din, Caroline Joy (CJ) Alegre impressed Rolling Stone's talent scouts, landing one of eight spots in the magazine's Street to Stage Contest, which features the best street performers from across the country.
Alegre, a Susanville native, practices law and provides assistance to special needs individuals in the Bay Area. She is a talented singer/songwriter trained at a young age by her mother, a vocal coach. Alegre picked up the ukulele three years ago and currently busks around San Francisco, occasionally performing at clubs. As she told Rolling Stone, street performing is "a very pure form of performance. Everyone's equal. Nobody has to pay to listen to you perform. And you learn a lot about yourself as a musician." The entire block may be a potential audience, but the challenge is getting a response -- passersby interrupting their daily routines to have a listen.
Rolling Stone's featurette on Alegre includes a video recording of her popular track, "Dilemma." It stands out immediately with its combination of intricate, fingerpicked ukulele and vocals that land somewhere between Regina Spektor and Zooey Deschanel.
More of Alegre's music can be found on her ReverbNation site and YouTube channel. She has a few Tom Petty, Nine Inch Nails, and Johnny Cash covers, as well as several original songs, such as "Neatly Packed Notions" and "Pillbox On My Pillow." Her music style is reminiscent of Beirut; both create an instrumentally happy vibe, which contrasts nicely with sad, sometimes depressing lyrics. Alegre is currently working on her debut album and a music video for "Dilemma."
The Street to Stage Contest winner will be announced in September, but before that, the current field of eight will be narrowed to the four semi-finalists who receive the most votes online. The contest prize is an opportunity to perform professionally on the Rolling Stone Rock Room stage at South By Southwest in 2012.
Vote for Caroline Joy Alegre at rollingstone.com.