It’s clear that the city of Boston has a strong devotion to culture and the arts, with a multitude of world-class museums and globally-renowned universities. But many of these places are hoary, even time-worn. Fortunately, the cradle of liberty is refreshed from time to time with new blood. For proof, look no further than Boston’s newest cultural institution — Keytar Bear.
Keytar Bear in concert
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]
Just about all you need to know about this delightful Boston bruin can be found right in his name. Keytar Bear, or KTB, is a person wearing an adult-sized teddy bear costume while playing that delightful instrument known as the keytar. You just can’t beat that. New York City can keep their so-called Naked Cowboy.1 Who wants a nearly-nude buckaroo playing a fusty old acoustic, when you can have the hybrid of man and bear playing the hybrid of keyboard and guitar?
Don’t let the goofiness of the costume fool you, either. Keytar Bear is truly a talented musician. Accompanied only by a backing track, he uses a clumsy-seeming pair of paws to tear up all manner of music. Videos on YouTube, such as this and this, simply don’t do proper justice to the performer. My own paltry attempt fares no better:
To truly appreciate Keytar Bear, you must see him in the flesh (or perhaps “in the fur”). Keytar Bear first hit the streets of Boston in 2013, and he quickly gained fame on social media. News of the latest busker spread via tweets, Facebook posts, and of course, Instagram pictures. The keytar is enjoyable enough, but the keytar played by someone wearing a bear suit from the movie Ted? That’ll make folks stop and take notice. For more than a year now, KTB has been raising both eyebrows and spirits throughout the city.
We Stand With Keytar Bear
Of course, there’s always one or two bad eggs out to ruin a good thing. In the spring of 2014, Keytar Bear was attacked twice, likely by the same assailant. Some claimed that this is why we can’t have nice things. But I don’t accept that, and neither did others. Following these unfortunate incidents, Ms. Abigail Taylor quickly organized a fundraiser for KTB. It quickly blew past its $2500 goal, ultimately raising over $5500 for the performer.
More recently, Keytar Bear was assaulted again, with his earnings stolen. The Boston Police Department moved swiftly to protect our already-cherished icon, however, and arrests came shortly after incident. Let their work serve as a warning: You don’t mess with Keytar Bear in this town.
Thankfully, you can’t keep a good Keytar Bear down. In short order, he was back delighting passersby throughout the city. This past Monday, KTB played a full concert at Cambridge’s Middle East club.2 After grooving for nearly three hours straight3, in an event that was without a doubt the best $5 I’ve ever spent, Keytar Bear answered a few quick questions posed by your humble author.
Quick Questions with Keytar Bear
Do you practice in the bear suit?
Yes. Yes, I do.
Is there more than one bear suit?
No, it’s the only one.
How do you wash a costume bear suit?
Mmm — dry cleaning. [Please enjoy the image of a dry cleaning carousel slowly rotating to reveal a bear suit on a hanger, coming around the line. -Ed.]
Today alone you’ve been at Downtown Crossing, then Harvard Square, and now you just played non-stop for three hours. What’s your training regimen to rock so hard all day?
Passion. It’s passion.
Why do people keep assaulting Keytar Bear?
I’m a small guy.
You don’t think it’s because you’re in costume, because they can’t see your face?
Nah, it’s just…“small guy”.
Alright, last one — Does Keytar get a lot of tail?
[Laughs] Umm…No. No.
For a deeper look inside the bear suit, see this in-depth interview from Boston Magazine.
Finding Keytar Bear
No visit to Boston can be considered complete without witnessing Keytar Bear in all his magnificence. If you don’t get a chance to listen to him jam, in what sense can you truly be said to have been in Boston? Word of KTB spreads well through the grapevines of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Keep an eye on those and you’ll be sure to catch wind of his latest appearance.
Be aware that Keytar Bear practices what might be called reverse hibernation, disappearing during the hot summer months. If you’re very observant, however, you might still be able to find the man beneath the bear. He may feign ignorance, but come on — how many keytar-playing buskers can there really be in one city? Also, the costume head sitting on his case is something of a giveaway.
But now, winter is coming, and Keytar Bear has remerged in all his shaggy splendor. He can be found throughout town at many of the area’s most heavily-trafficked spots. Look for him in or near T stops like Harvard Square and Downtown Crossing, at tourist destinations like Faneuil Hall, and elsewhere around the greater Boston area. When you see KTB, don’t be afraid to toss a few dollars in his bucket — this bear only shreds the keytar.
Yours truly in a terribly-lit photo with the Keytar Bear.
He really ought to be sued for false advertising anyway. ↩︎
On the way to the show, I passed through Harvard Square and came upon this sight:
It would seem that Keytar Bear’s pre-show routine consists of playing another show. The
manbear is a machine. ↩︎
Prior to the start of his performance, he took what he referred to as a “security leak”. Smart.↩︎