With gigs put on hold, lockdown live streams are bringing people together

Do you remember the days when you stood listening to your favourite band, feeling the music pulsate through your body as you stood too close to the speakers, waving your arms and loosely shaking your cider which was spilling out of your plastic cup?

As Summer creeps up, it seems the approaching gig and festival season is a thing of the past. The Eden Sessions and Tunes in the Dunes with promised headlines of the likes of My Chemical Romance, The Script, Noel Gallagher, Oh Wonder and many other established artists, are two of many local festivals that have been put on hold due to Covid19. With the likelihood of any concert or large event taking place this year being increasingly low, it would be easy to think that music doesn’t have it’s importance now we’re in lockdown.

But as artists live stream and connect their fans together virtually, as people party on their driveways and play music from their speakers while clapping for the NHS, music is bringing us together more than ever before.

James Shead, a musician from Cornwall who was also supposed to be performing at TITD this year, said: “It’s all very strange.” From a musicians point of view, having all his bands gigs cancelled is “a bit devastating and a little worrying” but he stays optimistic hoping for some sort of normality again soon. 

Sat on a stool alone in a room of his house, James laughs: “Hi mate, thanks for joining,” as people crack jokes in the comments while he sings songs to a digital crowd. “Comment what you’re doing to keep busy in isolation,” he mentions in between songs, trying to keep some interaction going as he performs songs to a screen. 

“It’s nice to see comments coming in as the live session is going on,” he said in reflection of his performances so far. “It’s quite a social thing.”

Keeping supporters and artists communicating with other artists in the time when we all need to stay connected most, is one of the reasons that music will never truly fade away, even in lockdown.

“I’ve been listening a lot to Helm‘s live streams, a friend of mine from Cornwall who does regular gigs from his piano. He did a request only Beatles night the other night which was probably my favourite, I’m a big Beatles fan.”

Live streaming is hardly a new found method of performing but artists are increasingly attempting to monetise these performances with virtual busking hats, to keep them afloat in a time when live music is sinking. Although unconventional, it’s proving to be fairly successful with local musicians.

So with the recent success and upwards trend of virtual gigging in a time when it’s needed most, it brings the question: Will the music industry be a different place when this is all over?

“I honestly believe live streaming has a shelf-life. I don’t think anything could really replace live music.”

James Shead is among most other musicians who believe that although it has it’s place at the moment, it could never replace the real thing. “Like all things, people will eventually get bombarded with it. I don’t think live streaming will ever replace actually physically going to a concert.” 

Choosing a nice-looking room in the house, getting sat comfortably and setting up Facebook isn’t comparable to setting up for a live concert with his band, James reminisces, saying he treats live streams as a rehearsal but for a digital audience.

“One of the things I miss most is the rehearsals with the band, sound checks and performing to a crowd… It would be a shame if live streams replaced the real thing.”

For James and his band, they’ve had gigs that have been cancelled, postponed or left uncertain. Staying hopeful for the future he says: “There’ll be other places to play and other opportunities. Whatever happens happens.”

For the time being, all we can do is stay ‘Safe At Home’ and wait eagerly for all the new releases local artists will be producing after months of writing songs. Before long, we’ll be back in tight crowds, glittered faces, drinking a pint and singing badly and out of time to songs we know every word to.

And I for one, can’t wait for that day to come.

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