Winter Tour of Epic Proportions

musings of a professional dreamer

Photograph by Jean Pierre Maritz
The last three weeks have gone by ridiculously quickly and I feel like I’m still lost in the Grahamstown time portal, but somehow, in between my five shows, many a “catch up” coffee / milkshake / brandy, and some all-important business meetings, I even managed to catch some theatre and live music!

Grahamstown withdrawal is no laughing matter. Aside from the festival sickness I managed to contract, I’m left with an empty space in my artist heart that misses the intensity and energy. After festival, real life becomes a strange, slightly dulled beast and nothing quite measures up for a while. As with every tour, there’s been some good and some bad.

I had a great acoustic session on MFM 92.6 in Stellenbosch (save some technical glitches) before a rather disappointing show at Dorpstraat Teater. The intensity of the National Arts Festival and the support system I had there is a hard act to follow, but playing to 4 people is soul destroying. I try to take some comfort in the fact that it’s ‘varsity holidays and most gigs in Stellies are quiet as a result, but there is always an excuse: there’s a game on, it’s raining, everyone’s on holiday, there’s an earth-crushing meteor heading our way…

I heart Napier. A chance discovery on my last Western Cape tour, this ridiculously small town in the Overberg (total population 4000), has become my favourite stop on my touring route. A weekend of shows there this past weekend was exactly what I needed. The Suntouched Inn is a pleasure to perform at, so much so, that it doesn’t matter how big the audience is, so a quieter weekend than my sold out show there a few months ago, didn’t bother me in the least. It’s just a rad weekend and makes this feel more like a holiday. The owners are a pleasure to work with and make my job seamless, the staff are loads of fun, the vibe is chilled, the pizza is ridiculously good, and the audience is perfectly attentive. This venue could teach most venues around the country a thing or two about hosting live music; about mutually beneficial relationships; about respect. I heart Napier. I now have a badge that says so.

5 on Ryneveld in Stellenbosch (very rad place if you haven’t had the pleasure yet) is not a “show” venue but more of a chilled, background music type venue, but I had a cool evening there anyway playing to an attentive audience who bought some albums (a pretty good indication of one’s impact). I’ll definitely play there again because the management is a pleasure to deal with, and as far as background music venues go, this one is definitely one of the best by far.

The Alma Café in Rosebank is one of my new favourite spots in Cape Town. Super small and intimate, you can fit a max of about 35 people into the old supply store, which provides the perfect setting for my ramblings about life, touring and the meaning of it all between songs… The sound is fantastic and enveloping and the owners are a dream to work with. The audience come there to listen, and do so in silence because it’s that kind of venue. It’s rad.

My set at Barleycorn was also good fun on Monday. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by an unexpected wild card, but for the most part, the impact of my shows really does seem to rely on the type of venue that I’m playing. Despite being a “free show” on my tour, I dig playing the Barleycorn when I’m in Cape Town because of the kind of platform it is. There’s always someone new in the audience who hasn’t heard you and the audience really are there to listen.

Despite a disappointing start to the Western Cape shows, it feels like I’ve accomplished a lot. One more show in St James on Friday and I hit the road again.

Besides the shows, I’ve been busy doing all sorts of other things while I’ve been in town. Two of my Argentine friends (from Machitún) were in Cape Town for a week and I spent some time showing them around Cape Town (as much as a Durbanite can anyway). I managed to fit in 2 days away in Noordhoek with a friend, which is something I try to do whenever I’m here – the idea being to take a forced weekend off, although this time I did much more work than I intended. I snuck in a compulsory trip to the Old Biscuit Mill this past weekend as well, something that should be done as often as possible. It’s a vibe. Origin coffee, honey liqueur shots in chocolate cups, breakfast panini’s, and pink bubbles make Saturday mornings that much more exciting!

I’ve also caught some great shows while I’ve been here. Karen Zoid kicked off her 10 year anniversary tour at The Fugard Theatre (dreamy theatre) last weekend. I was supposed to catch a show of hers at the National Arts Festival last year but missed it because of a radio interview so was quite stoked to get another chance, particularly in this space. It was rock ‘n roll, with a side of goosebumps I didn’t really expect… Bed On Bricks, my favourite band of hooligans, played at Silvertree (Kirstenbosch) the following night and rocked it, as always. I don’t often pass up an opportunity to see these boys live. They never disappoint. I also managed to catch a production that I was hoping to see in Grahamstown this year but never got to, Shakespeare’s R&J at The Fugard Theatre. As an ex-drama student, you can imagine how many adaptations of Romeo & Juliet I’ve been subjected to. This one is really worth seeing, with a ridiculously talented cast in an absolutely beautiful space. Loved it!

It’s strange trying to sum up tours into paraphrased episodes, but that’s the gist of it so far. It’s been a great tour overall and I’m very excited about some super cool prospects that have surfaced… Two more shows and I’ll be back in Durban for all of 3 days, and then I jet off to Oppikoppi 17!! After an evening out at the Gibson Guitar SA Launch Party last night (very cool to catch up with some of the coolest kids in the CT industry and discover the radness that is Cape Town band The Rescu), I’m now back in bed and trying desperately to will myself better. The festival sickness that took over four weeks ago is still lingering and, aside from today, I don’t see much chance in the next 10 days for any kind of rest. Such is life on the road.

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© Shannon Hope 2017