“Keytar Bear shows what our city can do for the little person,” Abby Taylor says when talking about “Keytar Bear and Abby Taylor Day: Street Performer Fest” in Cambridge today (Friday). “We embraced him and made him part of our culture. And we can do that for all the artists and weirdos.”
The origins of the free, public music shindig from 4 to 8 p.m. at Jill Brown Rhone Park (at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Sidney Street) go back to last spring, when Keytar Bear—a musician who dresses up in a giant teddy bear costume to play a keytar (the awesome love child of a keyboard and guitar) around Faneuil Hall and Boston subway stops—was a attacked twice while performing. Someone threw a bottle at him, then a guy punched him in the face, breaking his nose.
Taylor, then an events director at Workbar and a musician herself, decided something had to be done.
“As Bostonians, we are responsible for putting a smile back on his face,” the Somerville resident wrote when setting up an online fundraiser urging people to “to help out Keytar Bear with his bills, but also to show him what he means to the city of Boston.” It quickly collected $5,560 in donations. The effort culminated in a benefit concert a year ago at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge. Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung showed up with a city proclamation dedicating the day to Keytar Bear and Taylor. “I was just completely blown away by that,” Taylor says. All of which helped propel the Bear into the local cult stardom stratosphere.
To mark the anniversary, Taylor is teaming up with Keytar Bear again to present “Keytar Bear and Abby Taylor Day: Street Performer Fest.” It will feature performances by Alex Navarro, Ilana Katz Katz, Amy Kucharik and, from 7 to 8 p.m., Keytar Bear himself. The event is put on with assistance from Cambridge’s Central Square Business Association.
“We want to celebrate the street performers out there every single day making us smile, making us happy, making us think about the song we haven’t heard in a while,” Taylor says.
“For me, it represents the ability of Boston and Cambridge to come together and support people in their time of need. When Keytar Bear was really down on his luck, he said he was thinking of leaving the city of Boston because he didn’t want to be attacked,” Taylor says. “I didn’t want people to think that about Boston. … I don’t think about Boston being this meathead kid who punches people in the face.”
Instead she wants people to see greater Boston “as this great small town community with big love for its people—and the weird people, the guy in the bear costume, the Red Sox with their facial hair. I knew that if I brought this story a little bit of attention that the city would rally around this person. … That’s why I want to celebrate this.”