Last year was quite a year. I stopped counting the number of gigs eventually.
There were some special moments for me. Performing at Epworth High School on Friday 3 August was one of those moments. The Cordwalles 100 Club Evening. The debut of Just Theatre’s cast at The Knoll in Hilton. The legendary Coffeeberry Cafe throughout the latter part of the year. Performing to loyal supporters at Saki routinely on Sunday evenings. Sunday afternoons at the sublime Highgate Wine Estate. The haven that is Atasca Restaurant at Cascades.
Towards the end of the year, I played at MiTH. For those who don’t live in Hilton or the surrounding areas – all 92% of you reading this blog – that stands for “Music In The Hills”. It’s quite a successful musical jaunt here in the KZN midlands. I mean, a packed-out Wednesday night music club in KZN? Seriously?
Yup, I’m serious. The mere concept defies logic. But then, so do most things and people in this part of the world.
Anyway, my stint there turned into quite a big deal. I was thrilled to be asked to perform there and it seemed like in the lead-up to the event, everyone was asking me about it. I ended up in the local daily newspaper. People were texting me. “So this is what it’s like to be a rock star?” most people think.
The vast majority of people won’t fully comprehend that being a working musician – someone who doesn’t get stoned or drunk and actually goes home with no debt – is actually hard work. It’s not a one-off gig that gets you noticed and keeps paying your monthly bills. It’s multi-faceted, multi-tasking, multi-income stream, constant hard work. Let me take you there to the day of the MiTH performance, because it seems to encapsulate – for me anyway – some aspects of life as a musician.
3pm. My wife and I arrive home from our respective schools, kids in tow. It’s been a full day already. Rehearsal for a new Just Theatre show on 80s music starts at 3.30pm, and the venue is 20 minutes away. We also have to make two stops along the way. And we have to pack – music equipment and clothes. Not only for ourselves, but for our three small children as well. This is where I have difficulty putting into words the vast myriad of plans, checklists and to-do lists that goes through a parent’s mind in space of three minutes.
We begin to herd the cats – I mean, kids – and pack their bags (and ours) with pyjamas for the evening, clothes for the following day, and toothbrushes. At least that’s what we’re thinking. Whether the toothbrushes actually make it into the bag or not is another blog post altogether.
3.21pm. The car is packed, the kids are in (with seatbelts) and the house is locked. “We have 9 minutes to do a 37-minute commute,” I think to myself.
We walk into rehearsal (only 15 minutes late, mind you) and hit the ground running with songs, script and blocking for the show.
5.50pm. We call it quits at rehearsal, and head back to base camp in Hilton before cramming in a church meeting down the road at 6.30pm, and heading to MiTH at 7.30pm to catch the other bands.
Oh – I didn’t tell you… the organisers made me the headline act. Headline. Sounds cool, hey? Sounds like a big deal? You can picture the conversation in your imagination, I hope:
“So what did you do on your Wednesday night?”
“Oh, I headlined MiTH.”
“You what!?!? Dude!!”
“That is AWESOME!!!”
“Um, so er… I know autographs aren’t really the thing nowadays, but.. could we get a selfie together?”
At least, that’s how it plays out in those clichéd narratives. What no-one tells you is that, as a headline act, you get on stage at 9pm. Yes, everyone waited for the headline act – us – to climb on stage at 9pm.
Nine… flippen.. pee… em.
[Spoiler alert.] Guys. I hate to break it to you. But I’m in bed at 9pm.
Yes, I’m in bed by 9pm. Why? Because I’m up at 3am. But I digress.
9.03pm. We hoist ourselves on stage, and we throw ourselves and our story out to the attentive audience in songs and words. Tamlyn and I, and my long-time Benoni brother Rudi. I’m aware that we’ve all walked a road together. And for some in the audience, that road speaks to them. But if I’m honest, it’s 45 minutes at the end of a very long day where I find myself pouring out my soul and wondering whether my words about life, my questions, my ideas about marriage and my hope of better days… do these things speak to anyone? Does it resonate? Or should we all just be realistic about the fact that we can’t feel our feet here in the Knoll because it’s so damn cold, and go home to bed and ponder these things in the sober light of day?
We finish our music. There is applause, as there always is. And we pack away the guitar and wind up the cables.
10.49pm. I climb into bed, reflecting on the evening and the 2018 year that’s unfolded up until this point. I take a deep breath, and I’m full of gratitude, because I’m living.