The rhythmic cadence of Larry “Bucket Man” Hunt’s joyous drumming reaches the ears of pedestrians three blocks away from the Market Street Old Navy. The downtown sidewalk has been the drummer’s base of operations for the better part of a decade.
“I ain’t trying to get rich,” Hunt said. “I just want to make people happy.”
Hunt has gathered recognition for his talent in San Francisco and beyond – first when he had a cameo in the 2006 Will Smith film “Pursuit of Happyness,” in April 2014 when he was featured in an Intel Corp. commercial and in May 2014 when he performed at a festival in Germany for HK Plastics, a European packaging company.
Inspired by an assignment for a filmmaking class, SF State alumni Jeremy Valencia and Melody Fitzgerald said they have spent over a year working on “Under the Noise,” a documentary about Hunt and other street musicians in San Francisco, many of whom are homeless.
“I wanted to make a documentary about what it means to be working on the street and the struggles involved,” Fitzgerald said. “I went around and met as many street musicians as I could.”
“It’s a real community where people know each other and help each other out,” Valencia said. “The main question we wanted to answer is, ‘How do these people survive, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, doing what they love to do?’”
The pair said they spent countless hours gathering an “insane amount of footage” to explore what the question meant for each musician.
Fitzgerald said Hunt became a major focus of the documentary because of his trip to Europe, which took place shortly after they first interviewed him.
“We got to follow him around while he got his passport; it was really exciting to be a part of (that experience),” Fitzgerald said.
Despite being a San Francisco fixture, Hunt said he has received numerous noise complaints from Market Street residents. Hunt said he’s had so many court dates that the judge told him she’s “tired of seeing (his) face because of the same charge.” For a while, Hunt said he was playing on a drum set that Intel gave him after the commercial, but he said the San Francisco Police Department confiscated it in August.
Hunt said he had negotiated a deal with SFPD that allowed him to drum his buckets if he left by 8:30 p.m. He said the deal has since been called off because he was receiving too many noise complaints for “disrupting the sidewalk.” Hunt said he still makes sure to leave before 9 or 10 p.m. because he knows people don’t want to hear loud drumming late into the night.
Although the film project was due more than a year ago and both BECA majors have since graduated, Fitzgerald and Valencia said they want to continue work on the documentary and hope it will educate the public on what being a street musician entails.
“I think a lot of people think that street musicians are just playing on the street begging for money,” Fitzgerald said, “but a lot of them are just doing what they love and are sharing it with the community. I feel like Larry really embodies that.”