Macy Gray and the Johannesburg Experience

Sometimes you get called for a gig that sounds too good to be true and even after you’ve said Yes, you’re still not sure whether or not it’s going to happen. Recently, I received one of those calls and it took me a second to comprehend exactly what was being asked of me.

“Hey man, you wanna go to South Africa with Macy in October?” said my friend Tamir Barzilay.

Wait, what…why aren’t you going?

“I’ve got another gig that’s conflicting, so I can’t go,” he said.

Holy crap, I thought and then told him I needed to make sure there was nothing on my schedule that would conflict and that I would get back to him asap. Luckily, there wasn’t and after weighing the pros & cons of such a long flight vs. getting to see some of the African continent, I called him back and accepted the gig. I knew it would be a lot of work but I’ve seen her band before and I know how great they are, plus her bass player is an old friend of mine whom I’ve wanted to play with for many years, so I had to say Yes.

Well, about six weeks later (which included many hours of shed-time, learning a lot of her material), I was boarding a red-eye flight from LA to New York, which only took five hours…then a six-hour layover at JFK airport then onto Johannesburg from there and that flight was fifteen solid hours. OUCH.

Now, that was a long trip!

We performed at the Delicious Food & Music Festival in Johannesburg, along with some major heavyweights…The Jackson’s, Roy Ayers, Louie Vega & the Elements of Life Band, Arrested Development, De La Soul and several others played. It was really great. Macy hadn’t been able to rehearse with me before the gig, so I was flying by the seat of my pants as far as knowing how she likes it to feel on stage but we held it together, even when it started pouring down rain. The crowd was at least fifteen thousand strong and everyone was dancing. I’ve played some big shows before but this one totally blew my mind. It was so much fun. During our last tune, we brought out a special treat, the Memeza African Choir, who performed one of the country’s most well-known folk songs, Shosholoza. We had rehearsed with them five hours earlier, so the music was fresh and they were amazing.

People were losing their minds and by the end of our set, they were chanting for an encore but we had to go because Arrested Development was up next…they were incredible.


You couldn’t have asked for a better line-up at a two-day festival…it was a once in a lifetime experience for me and I’m fortunate to have been given the opportunity. Macy took me aside at one point and let me know how happy she was with my performance and that made me feel relieved cause I had been so nervous about doing a good job. I sent a huge thank you to Tamir for recommending me. He’s been playing drums with her for more than three years and they’ve got a natural rapport with one another, so I had some big shoes to fill.

The following day, the entire band went on a trip out to the country to visit a lion rescue and an elephant sanctuary. Both were extraordinary and I would encourage anyone to visit there at least once, if you can. The people are extremely friendly.

I can now say that I’ve been to Africa.


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