Intoxicating Intensity (NAF2011)

musings of a professional dreamer

Photograph by Albert van Biljon
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this experience last year. No idea whatsoever. I thought I had an idea of what I was getting myself into this year. Still no idea whatsoever. The National Arts Festival has to be one of the most intense experiences an artist can endure, and on so many levels, it is making me a better artist. I know I said the same thing last year and I prepared myself for intensity, but time fades the colours a little and you forget how intense the experience really is. This year, even more so, with Machitún added to the mix.

Rushing around like a crazy person – flyering cars, doing radio promos and dodging growing festival crowds within the time capsule that is Grahamstown during festival – does have its down side though, and I managed to slip and injure my wrist before my shows even started! Pablo – one of the Argentine acrobats I’m sharing a digs with – wrapped it up and has worked some kind of healing magic to get it fully functional again. Apparently my tendonitis is a lot worse than I thought though, and needs some serious attention. Anyway. The cool thing about it being so cold in Grahamstown is that when you fall on your ass and you’re wrapped up like an Eskimo, it cushions the fall a little… Not clever. Speaking of cold, I owe my utmost gratitude to the inventor of the electric blanket, a Mr S.I. Russell (for those who were wondering), and to my sister who had the foresight to own one that I could steal for this winter trek through the Not-Durban towns of South Africa. It has literally saved my Durbanness.

Three shows in and so far, so great! My first house was about 50 strong (more than I expected to open with) and so beautifully responsive. The sound in Cuervo Music Room is ridiculously rad this year – enveloping and powerful – and I think I have a new favourite sound guy to join me on my world tour! One of my shows was alongside a Cape Town based group called The Mee Brothers who deliver beautiful songwriting worth checking out. I had an awesome Sundowner feature at the Monument on Saturday evening. It was just a quick 10 minute promo, but the audience sang along to “Oh Boy” like they’d written it themselves. It was too rad.

Between Machitún rehearsals, shows and promos, I’m losing track of time, although that’s inevitable during fest as the hours and days become an anonymous meshing of intensity (I need another word for this craziness but there isn’t one). I found myself falling asleep on the couch outside my second show venue last night, which resulted in frantic running up and down High Street in search of Red Bull at 21:55. I really need to chat to them about a sponsorship at some stage.

Today was my one and only day off throughout fest and I had big plans to sleep in, chill out, catch some shows, and recoup some level of normalness. It ended up being another day of far-too-early rising, admin catch up, poster putting, flyering, networking and madness. I didn’t manage to catch a show I was desperate to see today (the only day I could see it) – 3 Acts of Love with Richard Antrobus, who moved me to tears in Hats last year – because it was sold out (cool for him, bummer for me), but I did manage to catch some comedy courtesy of David Newton, Is It Because I’m Jack featuring friends I met at Aardklop last year, and I was moved (as always) by Guy Buttery’s wizardry on guitar – or whatever you call the instrument he plays!

This intensity is beautifully intoxicating.

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© Shannon Hope 2017