Before he performs at Surrey Arts Centre next month, John Mann will fly to Mexico in an all-out attempt to improve his future chances of writing and playing music for a living.
The Spirit of the West bandleader has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and a recent online fundraising effort has helped pay for treatments.
Mann will spend a month in Mexico with his wife, Jill Daum, starting this Saturday (Jan. 9).
“I hope they give him everything they’ve got,” Daum told the Now. “The actual stem-cell procedures don’t take that long – he’ll have two and they’re really just an afternoon thing, but we don’t even understand the different things they want to do,” she added. “Like, they want to give him a gazillion different infusions. Basically, they’re going to throw everything at him they’ve ever heard works for Alzheimer’s.”
Their aim is to slow the impact of Mann’s disease on their daily lives.
“There certainly are a lot of skeptics but I do get a lot of emails from people who have had some success, so we’ll see,” added Daum.
In an interview on Dec. 30, Mann said he’s “feeling good and getting ready to do it, this trip, and see if it helps.”
He and Daum are grateful for the financial support they’ve received through the fundraising campaign, posted at Generosity.com/medical-fundraising/support-for-john-mann-of-spirit-of-the-west. As of Tuesday, $56,784 USD has been raised by 648 people in 27 days.
“We’re grateful that people have helped us in so many ways, it’s almost overwhelming,” Mann said. “The people who have donated, it’s amazing. Jill and I have done a lot of crying, just because of it all, it’s surreal.
“It’s almost like a funeral and all the obituaries that come with that, everybody saying all these lovely things about John,” Daum added. “It’s incredibly beautiful to read and hear those things, those emotions. There were people who busted our hearts open because they gave so much, and others busted our hearts because they gave despite not having much to give, you know, but gave a little bit.”
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In Surrey, Mann will gig with a band at the arts centre on Saturday, Feb. 13. The concert will feature musicians – Allan Rodger, Eric Reed, Shari Ulrich and Tobin Frank – who performed with Mann on “The Waiting Room,” an album and theatre production inspired by his earlier, successful battle with cancer.
The concert might be one of Mann’s final headline shows, his longtime manager Allen Moy told the Now – possibly depending on the success or failure of his treatments in Mexico.
“The first set will be the music from the play ‘The Waiting Room,” Moy noted. “The second set will be a mix of some of John’s other songs including some (Spirit of the West) tunes.”
Before the Surrey date, Mann and Daum will fly from Mexico to Kelowna for a benefit concert hosted by Gold Medal Plates, a food-focused organization that raises money for Canada’s Olympic athletes.
“(The Surrey concert date) has been scheduled for some time and it’s not part of a tour, and we don’t know when John’s next solo show will be after that,” Daum noted. “I think it’s going to be really fun.”
Looking ahead, Mann will perform with Spirit of the West during the band’s final three shows ever, from April 14 to 16 at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. In recent times with SOTW, Mann hasn’t been able to play his guitarist parts (another musician plays them live), and he uses an iPad onstage to help him remember the lyrics he wrote.
“We’ve all been through a lot, health-wise, it just seems like the time to stop is now,” Mann said of the end of Spirit of the West.