Kali Masi, a punk rock band from right here in Chicago, has been touring for the last six years and just recently played Riot Fest, the famous, three-day punk festival in Douglas Park. They have things most bands have – two guitars, bass, drums, and good vibes – and something most don’t – a member with type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Sam Porter was one of the two founding members of Kali Masi, who released their debut LP Wind Instrument in 2017. Sam plays guitar, handles vocals, and has been living with T1D since he was 18. He’s easy to spot – he’s the one on stage with an insulin pump and is not shy when a fellow T1D points it out.
“The T1 community is really awesome! I always get really psyched when someone sees my pump and says hey, or tells me that they, or someone they know, is diabetic,” Sam said. “Communication and openness is always a path to growth and understanding.”
We were lucky enough to catch up with Sam between shows to find out what life as a rock star with T1D was like. With that, the opener is done, house lights low – it’s time for the headliner!
Five Things You Should Know About Being a Professional Musician with T1D
1. There is always room in the tour van for snacks and supplies.
Life on the road is tough and tour vans can get tight with the band and all of the gear, but there is always enough room for T1D supplies. Sam has his list of essentials that he always makes sure he doesn’t leave home without. Forgetting something like insulin, extra batteries, or testing supplies would put a damper on the tour in a hurry.
“That would be such a show-stopper,” he said. “I always bring [Glucagon] and have it accessible. I bring my blood kit and testing supplies just in case something goes wrong with my CGM. I have all of my pump supplies obviously also. Alcohol wipes come in extremely handy when you’re touring and getting grimy. I always bring granola bars, those mini-Gatorades are great in the van. I love snacks.”
“It’s important to have a little extra time to make sure your BG is right and that you haven’t forgotten anything.”
2. Pre-show highs are more common than pre-show lows.
Everyone feels highs and lows differently. For Sam, lows are less than ideal before shows because he gets loopy and forgets lyrics. Luckily for him, lows aren’t all that common and highs tend to take care of themselves.
“I’ve struggled with highs before shows more than lows, usually because we’re trying to eat before we play,” he said. “I’d much rather be at 280 than 45 when I’m performing. Neither way is good, but at least while I’m up there sweating and playing I’ll work it down a little.”
Everyone with T1D knows that lows are inevitable which is why…
3. You need your band behind you.
It is so important that you have a support system that knows how to help when things aren’t going well and for a professional musician, that’s the band.
“Always make sure your bandmates and crew know what your lows look like and how to operate a Glucagon! They’re your team when you’re away from home, make sure they know how to look after you if something goes wrong,” Sam explained.
“I had a really bad low during a load-in in Pittsburgh once. My band noticed how nonsensical and clammy I was and immediately got worried and helped me get my blood sugar up. That was really scary and I’m glad my band knows what to do!”
4. T1D can’t hold you back.
This one doesn’t apply just to rock stars. Being diagnosed with T1D is very scary, but in the end, it doesn’t have an effect on what you can accomplish. That includes being in a band that plays shows all over the world.
“I was diagnosed pretty late, when I was 18 and it was really discouraging at first,” Sam said, “but it’s just a little bump in the road, and you have to take care of your[self]. Everybody has their [problems]. Some people are born shorter, they just learn to reach higher.”
“Diabetes is really serious, but you can’t look at it as a brick wall stopping you from achieving your dreams,” he continued. “I made sure I knew how to take care of myself so that it wouldn’t get in the way.”
It does take time to get a handle on how to take care of yourself. Which brings us to our final thing to know.
5. Just remember to give yourself space and be patient.
Whether you’ve had diabetes for one year or 50 years, sometimes it will throw you a curveball. Sam is adamant that those curveballs are just a part of the deal. Make sure you give yourself the time and care you need and there is nothing that can keep you from reaching your full potential.
“Be patient and careful with yourself,” he said. “Diabetes will be extremely frustrating. Its presence is constant, but its behavior isn’t always reliable. Give yourself space and time to handle it. Then proceed to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.”
Sam and Kali Masi will be back in Illinois this November for T1Fest – a new two-day concert event benefiting JDRF – at The Forge in Joliet, IL! Click the banner below for more info on the event which features 12 acts – all of them with T1D connections – or click here for tickets!