We stood in front of hundreds – perhaps one of the biggest crowds that we would see in our time together, and it both excited and terrified me. I can only imagine what the rest of my brothers in arms experienced, but my feelings were profound. I can still see that crowd, that stage, and hear the surprising roar that welcomed us song after song, and although I would never describe myself as a musician in search of recognition, for a brief moment there, I belonged.
Five years ago, my band at the time, played at one of the greatest music festivals in the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa’s Oppikoppi. It was a festival of music, different blends, types, varieties, from all corners of the world, local, regional, international, it was a true testament of how a festival should be done. I remember it took us forever to drive there, riding in a faulty bus with only expectations of what awaited us at our destination. There were cold nights, celebrated in the warmth of friends and fellow artists jamming around the fire. I have never been one for camping, but I set up my tent, or watched as it was set up for me, and proceeded to live the festival life.
Of course this meant ingesting dust, sharing questionable public bathrooms, getting mud on my shoes, clothes and pretty much everywhere, and standing in crowds of drunk/high/sweaty people – perhaps this was the birth of my temporary mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Yet there were no barriers to pure unadulterated fun. I was no different from those same people with whom everything was shared and we were a community of sorts living in this global village sans borders or inhibitions. I was artist and I was fan. I was young and adventurous. And I was in love – with music and also a boy. Only one of those love affairs still breathes today. But there in that very vast spot I left a piece of my soul, in the same way that we leave little marks of ourselves in every place we hold in our hearts, in hope that someday we will make our way back.
In less than ten days I will return to that very same farm. Once again I will be fan and artist, eagerly awaiting my time on stage, while taking in the wonders that will inspire me to give it my all. I hope I am still young at heart, but I suspect the experience will be rejuvenating. My band of brothers is no longer the same as certain phenomena are only seasonal, but the memory will always remain. As I move forward knowing full well the mixture of excitement and terror that awaits me when I step on stage, I am taken back to that moment and all I can do is hope, and perhaps even pray, that once again I will belong.
The Oppikoppi experience: to be tried at least once in your lifetime (whether artist or fan).
The prodigal artist