Joe Buckets busted for Pike/Pine street noise

"35 years old and originally from Rhode Island, Joe has been living in Seattle for about 13 years but has been homeless for the last several..." (Image: Tim Durkan)

“35 years old and originally from Rhode Island, Joe has been living in Seattle for about 13 years but has been homeless for the last several…” (Image: Tim Durkan)

While local businesses are making calls for increased police patrols and the city is putting up money to study a pedestrian-only block of the neighborhood, maybe it’s also time to consider a busking permit program in Pike/Pine. Especially if Joe the street drummer ever gets his buckets — and his glockenspiel — back.

Slog reported on the apparent arrest of Joe Buckets last week. CHS was also working on finding out more about the situation after learning Joe had been taken into custody during a Saturday night performance in Pike/Pine. CHS has learned that Joe was interviewed and released but police placed his gear — “4 plastic buckets, 4 high-hat cymbals, a glockenspiel, a plastic bell, and other assorted percussive instruments” — into evidence pending the outcome of his case which is in the hands of the City Attorney.

CHS wrote about the bucket drumming noise and interviewed Joe about his busking earlier this year. “It’s hard being on the streets moving from place to place with all this gear,” Joe, who is homeless, told CHS. “And it’s tough trying to play when drunk or obnoxious people are trying to ruin my show. Once, I even had a lady come at me with a baseball bat a a couple months ago. I’ve struggled a lot out here, but I think it’s also part of becoming an artist — it makes you humble. Sometimes people come up to me without any money but really like what I am doing and say thank you — that means even more to me.”

According to the report on Joe’s arrest earlier this month, the drummer was contacted by police multiple times that Saturday night:

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According to the report, after the cops talked to Joe a second time around 11:15 PM — and gave him a printout of the municipal code on noise disturbances — the officers continued their Pike/Pine walking patrol… but Joe reportedly didn’t stop drumming:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 12.39.04 PM

According to a SPD spokesperson, Joe’s case was referred to the City Attorney’s office for possible noise disturbance charges. The spokesperson said Joe wouldn’t be able to get his gear back until the case was resolved. We haven’t yet heard back from City Hall on whether there will be any charges. UPDATE: A representative for the City Attorney said the case is still being reviewed by a prosecutor as of Tuesday morning.

As for the possibility of regulating performances around Pike/Pine, any kind of busking permit program on Seattle’s public streets seems unlikely despite the rather robust program (PDF) operating at the Pike Place Market:

There are 13 locations throughout the Market where performers can entertain Market shoppers for an hour at a time. Painted musical notes mark the sidewalks where they stand, and the number painted on the note corresponds to the number of performers that can play there at one time. New performers are always welcome at the Market. Due to the historic nature of the Market, horns, percussion and amplified music are not permitted. All Market performers are required to purchase a performer’s badge. To perform at the Market, visit the Market office on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 – 4 pm to apply. The cost is $30 for an annual permit. Performer permits expire on April 14 each year. Permits for the following year will be available starting the first Tuesday in April and must be paid by April 15 each year (or by the first performance date of the year). They remain valid until the following April 14.

In 2005, an attempt to create a similar permitting program at the Seattle Center was ruled unconstitutional. Another option might be giving performers like Joe places to play inside on private property — but that kind of isn’t really the point of being a street drummer.

We’re still checking on what happens with the case and will update when we learn more from the City Attorney’s office.

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60 thoughts on “Joe Buckets busted for Pike/Pine street noise

  1. Here’s that Seattle Municipal Code :

    25.08.500 – Public disturbance noises.
    It is unlawful for any person knowingly to cause or make, or for any person in possession of property knowingly to allow or originate from the property, unreasonable noise which disturbs another, and to refuse or intentionally fail to cease the unreasonable noise when ordered to do so by a police officer or, in the case of noise described in subsection A of this section, when ordered to do so by any of the following: a police officer, an animal control officer, or, in the case of a
    pet daycare center as defined in chapter 23.84A of this Code, any employee of the Department of Planning and Development authorized by the Director of that Department. “Unreasonable noise” shall include the following sounds or combination of sounds:
    Subsection D. Loud or raucous, and frequent, repetitive, or continuous sounds created by use of a musical instrument, or other device capable of producing sound when struck by an object, a whistle, or a sound amplifier or other device capable of producing, amplifying, or reproducing sound[…]

    • It’s not the busking… it’s the noise.

      Heck, they don’t let Bumbershoot go past 10pm. If they shut down Weezer at 10pm, they’re not going to let street musicians play past then. (They did give him multiple warnings too… they weren’t being dicks.)

  2. As someone who somewhat frequently plays music on the streets with a variety of groups (I play brass instruments, which are, yes, somewhat loud), I’m concerned by this. I try really hard, as do the groups I play with, to make good music that people enjoy listening to. We tend to stop playing by 10pm, cooperate with cops and business owners, etc. Maybe I’m totally off base, but I think people like to hear music in the streets. Art all around us keeps cities vibrant, helps to stave off the corporate and cultural influences that want to homogenize everything around us. If not for musicians and painters and strange groups of loitering hippies, what keeps Capitol Hill from becoming what the “Bellevue Wives” want it to be? Sure, Joe’s late night playing and non-cooperation with cops and residents definitely creates tension. But I hear a lot of people saying he shouldn’t be playing there because he sucks, and I’m just going to pull the NIMBY card on that…if we want art all around us, which I know I do, we have to accept that we’re not going to like some of it. Maybe I’m not going to stop and listen to him, and maybe I want that street corner to use with my bands, but that doesn’t change that I’m upset that Joe’s things were taken away and he’s unable to pursue his art.

    • Disturbing the peace night after night is not art or music. This guy is a public nuisance and no one is helped by enabling him.

      • He still is because no one wants to hear that anyway, but stopping at 10pm would demonstrate respect for the neighborhood.

      • “So your response to bring told you have no right to speak for me is to again speak for me. Seems logical.”

        Like they said, we’ll be happy to send Joe Buckets outside your window. You’ll sure be happy to hear him bang sloppily away.

      • It’s all about the 10:00. And when a cop hands you a copy of the ordinance and you ignore him– well, it’s hard to feel sorry for him. It’s not like he wasn’t clearly warned.

      • I don’t think he should be stopped for a lack of talent. That’s just wrong. But a proper time to stop would be appropriate for not disturbing the peace (especially with percussion instruments). If he stopped by 10PM that would be truly awesome. That would be a blessing for Joe. Honestly I don’t care much until after midnight when I personally try to go to bed on weekdays. Its the 12AM-4AM time when its most disturbing to me.

        But the issue is Joe, not general street performing. He’s just not respectful at all to the neighborhood and gives other performers a bad name. He doesn’t seem to actually recognize that he is disturbing people and breaking the law. This wasn’t the first time the SPD have warned Joe about the noise, and he was given warnings after 11pm and still did not stop. No respect.

        “I’m reliant upon the income I make from playing here 6 nights a week and the 10 PM to 2 AM hours are really the best,” – Joe Ayotte

        “once the bars began to clear out around 1:30 — that’s when the money starts” – Joe Ayotte

        [Faces of Capitol Hill | Joe the street drummer]

      • He fully realises he’s breaking the law.

        1. The cops have told him at least once per week since he’s started. ( More than 6 months of warnings!)

        2. Residents and business owners tell him daily that he is being too loud and is a nuisance.

        3. I personally have told him it is against the law and that his shitty drumming keeps me and my GF awake.

      • I agree with all who say the issue is his refusal to stop when told he is breaking the law – but Joe wouldn’t keep coming back and playing late nights if it weren’t his most lucrative time. Seems like there could be some education around this in the area bars. I mean, if people stopped donating money at 1:30am, he’d be more likely to pack it up and leave earlier.

      • “I agree with all who say the issue is his refusal to stop when told he is breaking the law – but Joe wouldn’t keep coming back and playing late nights if it weren’t his most lucrative time. Seems like there could be some education around this in the area bars. I mean, if people stopped donating money at 1:30am, he’d be more likely to pack it up and leave earlier.”

        Oh give me a break, it’s not the residents giving him money, it’s the drunks and tourists who don’t know better or care about the neighborhood.

      • He is not really a musician and he doesn’t care about the impact of his noise. Maybe now someone with some talent can play and knockoff at a decent hour.

    • You make some good points. But since art is subjective and we all like different things, that’s why we need to have laws that regulate noise in residential areas. If we had art anarchy then people would be tagging/painting everywhere even more than they do already, or blasting music for a dance “performance” in the middle of the night, etc. Like: “Hey! Turn down that art!”

      As you mentioned, your group usually stops around 10, which seems reasonable and shows you have at least some consideration for the neighborhood around you.

      Some people might like Joe’s “art”, but he’s keeping people awake and disrupting everything around him with his noise art.

    • The developers have already whispered in the ear of city hall (and maybe slipped them a few bucks as well) and Capitol Hill is going to turn into grossly overpriced housing, a few dry cleaners, a couple of Subways, and 600 bars. Guys like this are not going to keep Capitol Hill earthy. They are not vanguards in imaginary class wars no matter how much the Stranger likes to wave that flag. He keeps people awake and goes on for far too many hours. Its a nuisance crime and his tenure should be over.

    • If you’re not an asshole, you have nothing to worry about.

      “what keeps Capitol Hill from becoming what the “Bellevue Wives” want it to be?”

      Oh get bent, the “Bellevue wives” would never slum it here. Stop playing when you’re ordered to and this fearmongering is silly. If you’re really that concerned, get booked and you can play at all hours of the night.

  3. There are rules.

    The police “looked the other way” for quite some time. They properly warned him, citing the Code he was violating and providing it in hard copy form to him (which they did not have to do). Then they arrested him.

    I agree with the desire for an artistic fabric in any neighborhood, but if a citizen decides their mural work is great and paints it on the side of Elliott Bay Books without permission, they would be cited and arrested if caught in the act. They would not be given their spray cans back until the case was closed, if at all.

    There are rules.

    How is it unfair?

  4. To all the people screaming that “the gentrifiers” moved to Capitol Hill then started complaining about the noise: The people complaining about the noise have lived on the hill for years, sometimes decades. Joe started up August of last year and ignored pleas to stop. He would often play until 4am, or start up at 7am, and play for hours at Cal Anderson despite being told it was disturbing to people trying to enjoy the park.

    • Amen. I have not a shred of liberal rich white guilt for finally seeing the laws actually enforced in my neighborhood.

  5. ” Once, I even had a lady come at me with a baseball bat a a couple months ago.”

    I heard this happened in Cal Anderson. Joe had been playing there for hours on end most days despite being told he was disturbing other park goers and nearby residents. I do not excuse this lady but I 100% can understand why she snapped and assaulted him. I’m surprised he wasn’t physically attacked more often.

    • “I heard this happened in Cal Anderson. Joe had been playing there for hours on end most days despite being told he was disturbing other park goers and nearby residents.”

      Makes sense. The nearby apartments get all the noise of the park with very little buffer.

  6. Joe is a jerk. I understand he’s been homeless for years but still decided it would be a good idea to have a baby.

    Total Jerk.

    Joe’s parents need to come pick him up and take him home.

      • I agree. He has shown himself to be stubborn and hostile to neighborhood residents who are frequently disturbed by the noise, and now he has shown resistant, passive-aggressive behavior to the police too. He deserved to be arrested, and deserves to be charged. It’s about time.

  7. Joe Buckets is just not a good drummer. I usually like buskers, but the poor level of his playing actually made me, a normally very shy person, very irritated almost to the point of just telling him to go away and practice for God’s sake. I’m often subjected to listening to Joe while I’m a few feet away waiting for the bus. I can’t imagine how nearby residents and businesses have tolerated it. The fact that the Cap Hill blog and the Stranger tout him as some masterful street musician is mystifying. He really play’s at a very, very early beginner level, a level that really needs to be confined to a soundproofed basement. That’s great that he wants to earn his keep through music, and I realize self-esteem issues are at play. But he doesn’t have the skills to play in public at his current level. If he’s truly as humble as he says he is, he should consider other people’s feedback as indicative of how his playing is actually perceived.

  8. Buskers should be required a license from either King county or the city of Seattle, and be required to (as is already necessary anyway) report their earnings to the IRS as self employment.

    Wait… can’t you get a cut for turning someone in for tax evasion?

    If this turd can manage to support his addictions and stay about, he’s got money.

  9. A lot of people (Joe included judging by the crude cardboard signs he put up around the neighborhood) are going to try to make this about gentrification. It isn’t. It’s about a talentless dickhead who disrespected his neighbors every chance he got. I live in an apartment near 10th and Pine. I have walked down to tell him he needs to stop playing drums after 10 several times. Never once has he been gracious or understanding about how his drumming keeps me and my girlfriend up and on several occasions he’s told me to go fuck myself.

    He is a 100% nuisance to the neighborhood and I hope he never gets his drums back. He’s not a busker nor is he some charming neighborhood kook. He’s a rude drug addict who found out drunk people will give him money for playing elementary drum beats and fills as loud as possible.

    Good riddance!

  10. The concept that you can be as loud as you want and inconsiderate as you want from 7AM to 10PM is bullshit. This is what needs to be fixed in the law. What if I wanted to stand next to him and play the police siren at 200dB? I am really into the textures and variety of siren sounds throughout history. I am sure everyone will happy to hear my next performance.
    It’s not that he shouldn’t be playing there because he sucks, he shouldn’t be playing there because it bothers other people. If he wants to be an artist, great! The world needs art and the world needs sex too but people should never be forced to endure it involuntarily in public, in their homes or where they work or perhaps on a public sidewalk
    Art is subjective we need to have laws that regulate noise in residential areas that make sense and this one is clearly lacking in definition and bounds to be effective.
    If you are a musician rent a practice space, play in a place where it doesn’t bother anyone. Play inside sound proofed building, a bar or any place designated for such things that actually contains the noise. I am told some people will even pay to listen to you.
    These bullies masquerading as artistic musicians are still bullies in the actions and people should have a law to protect them from this bulling behavior.
    Fight back until they fix the law.

    • My understanding is that if someone is willing to be a complainant on paper noise issues prior to 10:00 pm can be addressed by the police. Check into that.

      • PLEASE post a link where I can find this information.

        This is what the police gave me.

        Unreasonable Noises
        Seattle Municipal Code 25.08.500:

        It is unlawful to knowingly cause, make or allow unreasonable noise to emanate from property under ones control, which disturbs another, and to refuse or intentionally fail to cease the unreasonable noise when ordered to do so by a police officer.

        “Unreasonable noise” includes loud, raucous, frequent, repetitive, or continuous sounds made by: animals; horns or sirens other than emergency equipment, motor vehicles being repaired, tested, etc: musical instruments or sound amplifiers; human voices, amplified,

        between the hours of 10:00 P.M. & 7:00 A.M.

        * Certain types of noise are permitted outright.

        * If the noise is illegal as defined in this brochure, police may intervene.

      • See page 12 from the above link, of 25.08.500, section D. It doesn’t spell out time limits, it just says keep it down, buster. Then of course, technically, Joe Ayotte is a real party animal, so he would fall into Section A of the same Muni Code.

      • 25.08.400 , 25.08.410 and 25.08.420 Limit to 55dB but It is for environmental sounds.

        25.08.225 & 25.08.500
        have the 7AM – 10PM exemption

        Am I missing something?

    • This particular section of the Seattle Municipal Code doesn’t say anything about times of the day–“unreasonable noise” of this sort is always prohibited.

      • I have a pamphlet given to me by the police which outlines the procedures to make a formal complaint. It has some of the same language as the Avoiding Noise pdf you found, Sirens; as a precursor to the formal complaint, call, call, call, and call. Log dispatchers’ numbers, dates, times, and incident numbers. Make recordings from your home or office, with Joe banging in the distance, and say “This is Seattle Sirens, it’s 4 a.m. on March the 25th. and I’m at the top of the radio tower (wherever sirens hang out), and it is approximately 7 blocks from Joe Ayotte’s one-man band, and then got to the someplace else and make another recording, and make several recordings, maybe on a smart phone, in public areas, taking care not to trespass or actually break the law in any way yourself. Make a series of multiple recordings over a period of time, then call an officer who can take your mp3 or a CD or whatever (I have no Idea how to do that myself) and he or she will take your call log and everything off to fill out a report. Then you are ready to help the city pursue criminal charges for noise violations if you are willing to appear in court and provide testimony, provided the perpetrator has been warned at least once. The police also may want to stand in your living space and judge for themselves, to make sure you are not just “hearing things.”

      • I just hate calling the police for something so stupid. There are real crimes which need attention. Why can’t people just use common sense be considerate of those around them? Why can’t we change the law so as not to waste these valuable police resources.

        On the other hand, in the news these types of conflicts often result in murders.

      • You may have a point about the word often. How about . . . “On the other hand, in the news, these types of conflicts have been a catalyst to many murders.” What is unique about these murders is the murders have often or almost always had no previous criminal history. They are simply driven to insanity by the noise of an inconsiderate neighbor. More often than not this noise involves music or dog barking.

        Actually definition #2 does seem to be appropriate:

  11. Busking is activity protected under the First Amendment. The reason Pike Place Market can get away with requiring permits is that it is private property. To require musicians to get approved by the government would be unconstitutional and immoral.

    • Banging loud drums at night isn’t protected under the first amendment. I also fail to see how there could be any speech issue when it’s just drumming.

    • “To require musicians to get approved by the government would be unconstitutional and immoral.”

      Nightly noise ordinances aren’t First Amendment protected. You have a Tea Partier’s understanding of the constitution.

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  13. Joe Buckets, Seattle: — —

    Absolute menace. Try listening to this cranked way up on a never ending loop for hours on end – Guantanamo prison music torture will come to mind.