Tuesday, November 29, 2016

East Cape and Across the Karoo Desert

Roads greatly improved, I have an easy, relaxed drive down the coast to Kenton-On-The-Sea. It's a little resort and retirement town, just off season. But who can resist playing a venue called the Goat Shed? My publicist, Warren Gibson, lives nearby with his family- so we also take the opportunity to visit, discuss strategy, and socialize. Plug Music rocks. Warren has done a great job and it's been a pleasure to work with him. We're already talking about the next Tour. Now, when a sudden rainstorm knocks out the power, I set up to do the Goat Shed show by candle light– without mics. I'm an old street singer, I like doing shows this way!

Down the widening highways to Port Elizabeth. A larger, coastal city. I'm to do the afternoon drive show on the big pop rock station- an event that's been set up weeks in advance. This could really help to put bums in seats for my evening show at the Music Kitchen. As I enter the studio, my heart sinks– I hear "American Pie" on the monitor– and the opening question is "what can you tell us about that song?"

In a remarkable display of nerve and silver tonguing, I actually twisted this interview into a beautiful thing, played guitar on the radio, promoted my Narrow House album, talked up the evening show- and answered the American Pie question. Damn! Sometimes I'm good!

A great show at the Music Kitchen. I'll be back! A really interesting indoor/outdoor room with a bonfire in the back. Nice people who bought lots of cds!

The Coast behind me, I'm looking forward to heading out across the Karoo Desert. Some big distances out here. Relaxed. Beautiful. I've got bottles of water and a full tank of gas. How fast does this little car go? We'll find out. There's almost no one out here. The road. And sometimes little ruins out in the distance. Who lived here? When? Why? How? Mid summer now, and it's getting warm.

I'm headed for what's been described to me as a "small drinking town with a farming problem." Nieu-Bethesda. I'm feeling relaxed, driving under big skies, my Africa relaxing with me now. There are ranches out here in the big spaces, or farms, estates. I'm not sure what they are called, but they are far apart, and seem far from wealthy. A hard life, I'd think. But I've met characters like this before in the American south-west. It takes a special sort, to make a life in an area like this one. Beautiful. Silent. Deadly. The freedom of isolation. The madness of it all. Over my six hours of driving, I see almost no one. This road is mine for a fleeting time, and I'm comforted by the feeling that I am probably as free and as mad as anybody else under these skies.

This is not one of the largest venues on my schedule, but I'm immediately glad I came. The town has evolved to be a little arts community with galleries, guest houses, a few restaurants, and a micro brewery. There are children riding an old horse down the main street. Pre-holiday. By next week every room will be filled, cars parked up and down. The cash injection needed to carry this place until the next holiday. I love these little arts towns in the off-season. I love the people who somehow wind up living in places like this, nurturing the old buildings, fostering warm little communities of odd souls.

It's a fun, local filled show in this barn-like bar. Outside, post-show, a strange, star filled sky. I sit on my porch and watch it for a while. Dead still. Dead quiet, but for the peeps of the little lizards.

In the morning, I stop over at the Owl House. Just steps from my guest house. Owl House is the main tourist attraction in this far flung little spot. A strange sculpture garden created by a strange woman many years ago. Powerful. My broken camera didn't capture it as I might of hoped. Or I didn't use my broken camera as skillfully as I might of wished. Stark, desert art by a woman I might or might not of liked. But flesh and bone art. Of this place. I would not of missed it for the little landscape galleries.

Soon I'm blasting down the naked highways, now heating up. Heading for the Showroom Theatre in Prince Albert. This is one of the most splendid small theatres in South Africa, and I'm very much looking forward to it. An amazing, art deco theatre, with a world class presentation stage.

I'm up early and away. I've got an afternoon theatre show in Tulbagh, some distance across the desert. How fast can this little Chevy go? I'm not going to tell you here!

Tulbagh. Saronsberg Theatre. This place is beyond the desert. It's green. It's fruit trees and wine estates. It's a historic, not so sleepy town, less than two hours from Cape Town.

Mr. Cat and the Jackal, a popular Cape Town band performed here last night. They are still doing breakfast on the balcony as I arrive to load in for my show. Persuaded that a little breakfast beer might be nice, I join the young animals for conversation. A musician social. Owner Chris Grobler joins us, and it's a pleasant hour spent before I need to set up.

A number of people around South Africa have worked hard to arrange this introduction. Selfishly, they operated on the expectation that these artists would click and create some fabulous music. Doc MacLean, meet Albert Frost. I guess you've got guitars in the car, Albert?

Damn straight! I've been checking Albert out on YouTube for months. Long enough to convince me not to play Sugarman for an encore. Long enough to know that this guy is a special kind of player. But I haven't had this much fun in years. Historic. This is very cool.

I feel like I've known Albert and Chris for years. We spend the next day hanging out, driving around, playing records. I'm blessed. I think it's pretty safe to say we'll be doing this again. And again.

It was a beautiful day, spent with great friends. Albert and I are booked to play a theatre together in about a week or ten days. I'm looking forward to that. We haven't rehearsed, but we've got a much better idea now about how cool it's going to be! Meanwhile, I've pointed the little white car towards the Garden Coast. In a couple more days I'll roll into Cape Town.

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