Rocking rolling blackouts: Getting in tune with playing live gigs vs an energy crisis

Jun 15, 2023 | Alternative Music, Community, Culture, Entrepreneurship, Live music, Music, Punk Rock, Rock music, Social Activism, Venues

PosterBoy playing at Robsons Real Beer.

Travis Muller heads down to his local in Durban – Robsons Real Beer – to get his hand on a craft beer – and a handle on how bands in SA are getting to grips with playing live during times of loadshedding.

Words by Travis Muller. Photos by Reverberate.

It’s a business nightmare.

It’s Friday night. Yesterday was payday. Your venue is filled with laughter and noise as cash-in-hand customers flock to your doors to let loose. Suddenly, we’re back in the Middle Ages. Unscheduled loadshedding strikes. 

In the heart of Durban is Robsons Real Beer—a venue with much to offer locals. It has an on-site brewery serving tasty craft beers and food and is the perfect setting for live music. Mainly because it guarantees the lights will stay on all night. 

“Booking venues without generators is too financially risky for everyone involved because of the unpredictability of loadshedding times. It’s a literal shot in the dark. Currently, only venues with reliable backups secure shows.” 

I attended a live gig at Robsons recently, organised by Reverberate, to speak with those involved to hear their perspective on the SA energy crisis’s impact on gig planning and its challenges. 

Punters feel the power.

Musicians Speak 

Band members like Jacques Moolman from Shadowclub, a well-known blues rock and roll band, called the energy grid’s situation a “heresy” but said South Africans are “persevering and strong people”. 

Simon Keith from PosterBoy, a young band blending DIY punk rock attitude with indie and pop music, said that certain areas and venues without backup solutions would suffer because bands won’t play at venues that can’t prevent a total blackout.

A Common Chord 

These honest sentiments are shared among artists and event planners. They stated that gig schedules remain busy because venues they book (must) have a backup. Currently, only venues with reliable backups secure shows. 

Booking venues without generators is too financially risky for everyone involved because of the unpredictability of loadshedding times. It’s a literal shot in the dark.

Lights Off at Home, Music On at Robsons 

Venues like Robsons Real Beer are locking down gigs because they offer certainty about electricity. The owner, Donn Stewart, said they have generators at both Durban and Ballito locations because of their full-time brewing operations. The temperatures of their breweries need to stay consistent. His call to blunt readers was that if you’re bored at home when darkness descends, find and pull into a place like Robsons Real Beer for a beer, burger and vibes, because they’ll always have power. 

Shadowclub playing at Robsons Real Beer

Life, Work, and Loadshedding 

Loadshedding is annoying but worse when unexpected. When loadshedding hit Robsons, within 10 seconds, generators had the gig running again. A genuine saving grace. 

How long can this endure? I depend on a battery-powered inverter for my online business to keep my Wi-Fi and wireless devices on. They’re essential. But, to recharge, inverters still rely on the grid’s capacity. 

Can we depend on backups during an unknown future of loadshedding? What happens if you can’t afford them? Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for SA energy? 

We need answers the government won’t give. But we’ll keep playing music somehow.

Check out Robsons Real Beer on Facebook and Instagram.

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