What does the future hold for the live music scene?
Any well-seasoned music lover knows the thrill of a really great gig. The sweat dripping down your back, the thump of the bass, that huge gulp of warm sticky air as you gasp for breath in a crowded venue, being thrown about as you jump into a mosh pit and if you’re lucky enough, an elbow to the jaw from a fellow excited audience member.
All of these seem a rite of passage for any young music fan; but will all be lost through enforced socially distanced events? With reduced ticket numbers and mandatory face coverings; fans won’t be standing shoulder to shoulder anymore, mumbling rather than belting the lyrics to their favourite songs.
For those, like myself, who love the bands of the UK’s punk scene; a genre in which getting spat on by one of your idols is something to be envied rather than feared, concerts in a post-covid era could change forever. The parts of live music that we know and love, the moments that teenage fans cherish and nostalgically remember for years to come, could be but a faint memory.
Those attending festivals or gigs in outdoor venues might experience a more authentic version of live music than the rest of us, but I’ve no doubt that even those won’t hesitate to feel just a little bittersweet with safety guidelines and precautions still in place.
Think about your own fond memories of music festivals; camping in a sea of empty bottles and pop up tents, the dreaded porta-loos, not washing for days and hot messy nights in packed crowds that would go on until the early hours of the morning. I think it will take more than a bottle of hand sanitiser to make these events Covid friendly, a necessity that will no doubt mean the festival experience will be drastically different than the one so many of us remember, at least for now. It will certainly be interesting to see how Sound City festival, rescheduled now for April/May 2021, deals with the “new normal” we’ve all had to become accustomed to these past few months.
Not only this, but as the world of live music opens its doors once more, we must take a moment to think of those that won’t. One in particular that hits close to home being The Zanzibar Club on Seel Street in Liverpool, a venue that has fought through every hardship it’s faced for the last thirty years but unfortunately not this one. It won’t be returning unlike Liverpool’s other music venues, a heavy loss as it has been host to many famous moments in the local scouse music scene, the club in particular being the beginnings of seminal bands like The Coral and The Zutons that have had a profound impact upon the UK indie genre and inspired many of the new bands appearing in the charts nowadays. As we mourn for the loss of these buildings that have helped shape so much of the way in which music lovers enjoy the religious experience of attending a gig, as well as helping to start the careers of so many of the UK’s biggest artists, how will the ones that have managed to survive keep going?
From our bedrooms and sofas, we have watched how the artists we follow have coped during the pandemic, many improvising through streaming live performances over Instagram and Facebook or producing entire albums over Zoom with bandmates they haven’t seen in person for months. Not only was this an ingenious way to keep fans interested and involved when they might be feeling their most isolated but has also been providing a whole new way of experiencing live music for those who might usually be unable to. People with inhibiting disabilities, both physical and mental, and those who simply don’t have the privilege to be able to afford to go to gigs. By streaming free or discounted live performances over social media, artists have been able to create a far more equal platform for experiencing live music the likes never having been seen before.
I sincerely hope that this isn’t lost with the return of gigs, and that bands still give the opportunity for fans who missed out on tickets to watch music live, even for a small fee, perhaps providing a safer and cheaper option for music buffs weary to brave the UK’s venues. Whatever happens, it will surely be fascinating to see how the music world adapts and changes post pandemic. Those of us used to an era of mosh pits, kicking, jeering, screaming, spitting and elbowing may just have to find new moments to love about live music. Moments that involve hand sanitiser, face masks and standing two metres apart, but moments that still involve the music we love.