Aug 17



(But also one of my most fun gigs)

Life can be challenging sometimes. When you are a self employed musician it’s a case of NO PLAY, NO PAY. How many times over the years have I dragged myself to the gig when I should have stayed in bed.
In the last 10 years I can only remembering cancelling once. Or to be exact my wife cancelled for me as the fever was so bad I couldn’t even stand up off the couch.

Probably the biggest challenge I’ve had health wise over the years has been migraines. Let me just clarify that a migrane is a constriction of a blood vessel in the brain, and Is not a bad headache,however this can be one of the symptoms. Depending on where in the brain this is,determines the symptoms. I usually start with a disturbed vision, and then my speech becomes slurred.
This probably happens to me at the gig 2 to 3 times a year. Usually when I have a problem at the gig, like faulty cables,or mild illness, I try not to let on to my audience. MY PROBLEM IS NOT THEIR PROBLEM.
However with the case of a migrane as soon as I have the first symptom of disturbed vision, I take a migrane tablet, and then inform my audience that I’m having a migrane and that in a couple of minutes my speech will probably become slurred. Hence I won’t be chatty in between songs anymore,and with slurred speech I obviously can’t sing. Fortunately my instrumental repertoire is large enough to survive the rest of the gig. I also have quite a few dancy instrumental tunes, so I close my eyes and somehow survive the night. I’m sure any doctor reading this would be horrified, but NO PLAY NO PAY. The amazing phenomenon is that when in this state my playing usually soars to another level.

Playing on cruise ships can sometimes pose some physical challenges, especially when the sea gets rough.
My very first cruise ship experience was on The Rhapsody sailing out of Genova Italy. I was playing with a duo with Johnny Lang (not that Johnny Lang…..the Afrkaaner from Rustenburg) on bass. We had to do the SAIL AWAY PARTY. We were totally green. We had no idea of how to stand like a Rock n’ Roller with our feet wide apart,and to move with the motion. We were being thrown around the stage. We weren’t even out of port yet. We survived 2 songs, and we were both violently seasick. It didn’t help that we were sailing into a force 9 storm. Talk about baptism of fire.( or should I say by vomit.)

The worst storm I experienced at sea was the bay of Biscay on the cruise ferry the Pride of Bilboa. Some of you will remember a hurricane hitting Paris Christmas 1999. Well we sailed through that hurricane. An absolute nightmare for 48 hours. No chance of sleep as you are thrown around in your bed. Every muscle in your body hurts from just trying to hold onto something. A few times I thought we were capsising, only to be knocked upright again by the next wave.
On Christmas day the ents. manager was insisting that I play. I just looked at him and said “No chance.”
He got very excited with me and started raising his voice. I said to him “You can raise your voice as much as you like, it I’m not playing in these weather conditions.”

My most physically challenging gig has to be when I was a music student at Pretoria Technicon. Each year year Technicon would have Carnaval. Each club/organisation would build a float to take part in the procession. All floats were built at the Carnaval grounds of the campus. They were built the week before the Saturday procession. For a whole week there is much beer drinking partying going on all night while building the float. I was part of the Student Christian Association. Each year we would pitch a very large tent for a Coffee bar. One section of the tent had mattresses and blankets as a recovery zone for passed out revellers. In one of the corners I had my band set up. On the Saturday night after the procession, that’s when the real party takes place, with a big stage music festival. So our tent was basically the chill out from the big party. My band was doing its thing,when the rhythm guitarist Gerrit Janse van Rensburg shouts in my ear “Hey that’s P.J Powers just walked in.”(She was one of the biggest names at the time fronting a band called Hotline) My rather inexperienced band just fell to pieces with nerves.
The Student Christian Association would always build great floats. We had such great talents in the association. The engineering students would design and build the structure. The art students would decorate,and I put the band together to play on the back of the float. We were the only float with a band on the back.
Have you ever tried to make music on the back of a moving vehicle in a standing position? This is a challenge. The real challenge is staying upright when changing sounds on your pedals.
If anyone is planning on building a float and playing music on the back of a float, I would suggest 2 things in the design.
1) For vocalists,bolt the Mike stand solidly to the vehicle, so you have something to hold onto.
2) For guitarist and wind players, have a bench built that you can sit on with safety belts fitted.
Playing on the back of a moving truck through the streets of Pretoria has to be MY MOST PHYSICALLY DEMANDING GIG ever. But boy was it FUN.

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