Capt. Neill Burger and Engineer Niel Rossouw of M/Y Aurora
were bandmates long before they ever worked with one another on board. They even had a school band back in 2005/06 when they were in high school in South Africa, but lost touch for a couple years until they bumped into each other in a bar one night around 2009. The pair decided to start a band. It went nameless at first, but their friends began calling them Niellville and it stuck.
With the lockdowns and self-isolation, they realized how much they missed playing live and Burger’s dad suggested they do a live show. Using Facebook Live, they decided on a Sunday at 11 a.m. in Fort Lauderdale, which is 5 p.m. in South Africa, so everyone could watch. They have since done a few more livestreams at that same time.
They enjoy playing oldies, sing-along classic rock music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, and more. Ever since their first gig, they’ve never had much of a set list that they follow. However, they do keep a three-page list of roughly 40 to 50 songs on the floor that they scan through while they play to decide which song would feel best to play at that moment based on the crowd and vibe. As soon as they end a song, one will suggest the next, and usually they’re in agreement and then they’re off playing the next tune.
Rossouw admits it was weird not having the usual two-way interaction and being able to read the crowd for the next song. After the end of the first song, it was just quiet. Then the Facebook comments and notifications started coming in. “We received some interaction and song requests, which made it nice,” Rossouw says. “A big part of playing live is reading the body language and feeling the vibe of the crowd, which in return fuels our performance and passion for the music. Without that, it kind of just feels like we are practicing and playing for ourselves.”
Their livestreams have since been shared and viewed by thousands. “We didn't realize people would interact so much and that the views would soon grow to over 70K. This was surprising and kind of unbelievable,” Rossouw says of their May 17 Facebook Live. “We're still not sure if people are interested in seeing and listening to our music, or just want to stare at the yachts in the background!”
Before playing for this virtual audience, the duo has done a number of performances around the world. In the early 2010s and after a year or two of Niellville, they realized they were getting bigger live opportunities and got their drummer and bassist from high school to join them, becoming Tuesday’s Gone. They played wine festivals, weddings, birthday parties, and the usual pub gigs. In 2012, they made an album under the band name Small Room Sunday because Tuesday’s Gone had already been registered. Two singles off the album managed to get on local radio stations in South Africa, and one still plays today.
“We all still had day jobs during this time as the band wasn't capable of taking care of us financially, and unfortunately, the cost of agents and marketing at the time was too much,” Rossouw says. “We weren't able to carry any further to get over to the downhill side of the music industry, which ended in all of us starting to give more attention to our day jobs, and slowly but surely had the band going quiet. Our drummer and bassist, PJ Franzsen and Deon Knipe, are still making music back in SA up until today — [they’re] great musicians — and we believe we might all reunite again one day, who would know!”
In 2014, Burger joined the yachting industry, and whenever he returned to South Africa, they would play gigs here and there. A few years later, Rossouw also joined the industry and was fortunate to help out on the vessel Burger was on, Aurora
, during a five-year yard period in San Diego, California. Rossouw later joined another boat, but when the two were both docked in San Diego, they played a weekly gig at The Wine Pub, usually supported by most of the yachties in the area.
“In June 2019, I joined Aurora
as engineer together with Neill Burger for a delivery from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. On our way, we stopped and had gigs wherever we could,” Rossouw says. “We played in Mexico [at] Cabo San Lucas' Tiki Bar, some restaurant in San Jose, and also spent a month in Acapulco where we played at the marina pool a few times.”
While they enjoy performing as a hobby, their positions as crew always take priority. They plan to go with the flow and do as many performances as their program allows. After arriving in Fort Lauderdale, they played at the Yot restaurant about five times for various events and are looking forward to doing more venues once everything is back to normal. To follow Niellville, watch their previous livestreams, and find out about upcoming performances, visit their Facebook: facebook.com/Niellville-102713548088025