The Winding Road

musings of a professional dreamer

I freaking love my job. I get in my car, drive across the country, stop over in these ridiculously cool places, meet cool people and play music. What’s not to love…? Okay, that’s a loaded question, so let’s say, “for the most part, what’s not to love…?”

The tour I’ve just completed included 14 shows, covering a total of 5,600km from Durban to Cape Town and back, with a few out-of-the-way stops in between. I’m always sure to book at least 2 weeks in Cape Town itself because… well, you don’t really need an excuse, it’s Cape Town. The route there and back though is always pretty intense and generally involves driving almost every day and playing almost every night, which is not exactly the brightest idea, but despite promising not to do it to myself again, I keep doing it. Over and over and over and over again.

The tour kicked off with a show in East London which, as always, was loads of fun despite following directly after a 10 hour drive that should have only taken 7! Another 7 hour drive to Knysna the following day and an early show overlooking the bay that evening meant that I slept through most of day #3 (as expected) but did manage to enjoy a milkshake at the Heads before hitting Oudtshoorn for the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees for 2 days. I was so excited about being included on the KKNK lineup but unfortunately my set was booked in… an Afrikaans beer garden. Picture it: the (very) English pianist singing honest heartfelt songs in an Afrikaans beer garden sans backing track. Ja. Need I say more? In fact, the first thing the sound guy asked me was “where’s your backing track?” I kid you not. I did manage to get a note out in the first chamber of the Cango Caves though, so it’s all good (talk about taking the music underground), although I was very bummed to hear that they don’t host concerts there anymore… that would’ve been ridiculously cool.

You can diss the Capetonians as much as you like for their obsession with that rock, but there is something entirely satisfying when she comes into view after a crazy week on the road. After 4 shows, 1,980km and 5 days of intensity, Cape Town was, as always, a very welcome sight. I got some much-needed time in at T-Time Studio wrapping up mixes for the new album and the shows were pretty cool for the most part, with the highlight being a late afternoon performance at the V&A Amphitheatre at the Waterfront. A perfect Cape Town day and a rocking rad audience. At one of my Cape Town shows I chatted to a couple who’d had their first date at one of my shows last year and are now engaged. That made me smile.

It took me 7 shows, 2,600km and 10 days to get back to Durban because the road back was a winding one, through places I’d never even heard of, let alone been to – one of the reasons I freaking love my job! Napier was first on that mystery list and my show at Suntouched Inn wins the credit as best show of the tour – the raddest hosts, the coolest audience and the best pizza! This town is so small that if there wasn’t a stop street on the main road, you would probably miss it entirely, but do yourself a favour. Seriously. It’s hard to beat an unexpected sold out show in the middle of nowhere and I have to admit that the rest of the tour just didn’t quite live up to that awesomeness, but the show in Greyton was nice enough and the town is beautiful and also definitely worth a visit. The Overberg is a crazy cool area full of interesting places and I can’t wait to discover more of it. The coolest thing about this tour was that I got to visit quite a few new places and I managed to get in at least one day of touristy sightseeing in Cape Agulhas. I climbed the L’Agulhas Lighthouse and stood at the most southern tip of Africa where the two oceans meet. I took a photo of the rock. Riveting stuff.

I also had a late booking for a show in Hogsback. Whenever I mentioned that I was going to Hogsback, people responded with this sparkle in their eye, like I was visiting the most magical place on earth and I have to say it comes pretty damn close so I’m not surprised that it’s credited as the landscape inspiration for Lord of the Rings. It feels as though you’ve stepped into another world entirely and is honestly one of the most surprising places I’ve ever been to. Aside from the beauty, I also didn’t expect it to be 6°C and will leave the resulting expletives to your imagination. Incredibly beautiful place you absolutely have to visit, preferably not alone like I did and preferably not for just one night. Take your hiking boots, and don’t forget your winter warmers!

The tour ended with 2 performances at the Smoking Dragon Festival in the Northern Drakensburg alongside an incredible line-up of South African female artists. A great concept that has limitless potential and I’m looking forward to seeing this new festival grow. As a Durban girl, I don’t need much convincing to visit this part of the country and it was fitting to end the tour in such a grand landscape.

And another tour comes to an end. A huge thank you to everyone who had a hand in making it a successful one, my hosts for their kindness and to the various audiences, big and small, thank you for listening. As with life of the road, I learnt a lot on this one although I’ve come home with more questions than answers, but as I settle back into Durbs-by-the-Sea for a few weeks and reflect over the past month, for the most part, the good makes up for the bad and there is always something that makes it all worthwhile. I drove new roads and visited new places. I (finally) caught my first Cape Town sunset from the top of Signal Hill. I became part of the story of how two lovers met. I dodged a cold that could’ve ruined it all. I ate too much pizza. I stayed in the smallest town I’ve ever stayed in. I sold out a show in the middle of nowhere and fell in love with a town I’d never heard of. I got stuck in a flock of sheep for what seemed like forever after sleeping through my alarm and hitting the road later than I should have. I discovered new artists that are becoming all-time favourites. I stood at the foot of Africa between the two oceans just to say that I’d done it. I met beautiful new people that I now call friends and I saw old friends that I’m lucky enough to see on a regular basis. Because I have the best job in the world. For the most part.


There are 2 comments on The Winding Road

  • Richard Prowse on

    Hey Shannon, a well written article. You can feel the passion for what you do coming through. Pls come back to The Bull ‘n Ape by da sea anytime but hopefully sooner rather than later.

  • Thanks Richard! I can never stay away for too long… I’ll be back in July 🙂

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© Shannon Hope 2017