CHICAGO - Michigan Avenue is where locals and tourists go to indulge. The drag is lined with high-end retail shops, bars and restaurants. People here refer to it as the Magnificent Mile.

It could just as easily be called Busker Boulevard. When I went out for deep dish pizza the other day, I must have run into half a dozen street performers within three or four blocks of each other.

There was the a cappella singer with a change cup who belted original tunes - "Treat me as part of your fa, fa, faaaammmmily" - and a guy standing on a milk crate outside the Gap telling jokes through a bullhorn.

Not far from the crooner and the comedian, a makeshift band of kids in their late teens and early twenties hammered out songs in front of a gathering about 20 deep. They used buckets for drums and metal containers for cymbals. The crew had serious talent, and their music mixed well with the warm summer sun. They should send Questlove a YouTube link.

Across from the Marriott, a man stood motionless as the crowd closed in around him. He had lacquered himself with metallic silver paint and was wearing futuristic glasses and a suit of the same color. He looked a little like an updated Tin Man. Between the lack of movement and the trippy music playing from an old-school boombox at his feet, he had managed to hypnotize the audience.

The best of the lot was a two-man magic show at the corner of Michigan and Ohio. The main performer was joined by a shorter assistant who reminded me of Gary Coleman (may he rest in whachutalkinbout peace). The show was part shtick, part misdirection. They worked well together, particularly on their version of the shell game that used baseballs stamped with the Cubs logo.

At the end of the 10-minute act, the taller of the two took off his cap and handed it to the crowd for donations.

"We literally pass the hat to pay for your entertainment," he said. "If you don't like the government, don't worry - we don't pay taxes."

I pulled a few crumpled bills from my pocket and contributed to the cause. When the IRS reads this, David Copperfield and Harry Hou-teeny will need it to pay for the lawyers.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.
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