Many of my favourite memories come from live music and always with others. Memories of drunken circle pits, singing loudly and badly along to lyrics, hugs when ‘that’ song gets played…so many experiences.
Divided across so many years and with so many people. We’re not just talking family and friends here. We’re talking about the person who picked me up when I fell over in a pit. The high-fiving stranger that I briefly connected with in a bout of head-banging mania. The apologetic beer spiller or the god-damn band on stage giving a smile or nod in my direction.
From Metallica at Wembley Stadium to Faith No More at the Roundhouse to Conjurer at the Black Heart to Aonia at The Corporation to the festival experience that is Bloodstock, these are moments I treasure.
Drunken air-guitaring to Machine Head, tearful as Blind Guardian tore my soul apart, in awe as Gojira stepped up, laughing as The Berserker tried to fight security, watching my son circle pit to While She Sleeps, saying I’ll never circle-pit again and the moment Roots kicks in, I’m off.
Nothing will ever beat live music.
Yet, it’s in danger.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who frequents venues for music, everywhere has been shut since this pandemic started. A pandemic that has taken its toll on everyone, everywhere. So much so that it almost feels wrong to complain that your gig or festival has been cancelled. How can you equate loss of life to the loss of a gig? It’s downright embarrassing and certainly not what I’m trying to say here.
However, to play down the loss of live music is wrong too. For many, me included, live music and the experience is a major part of their identity. A chance for escapism from the world. A relief from the pressures of life. For a few hours, nothing else matters but the music and maybe a few beers.
This is extended when it comes to a festival.
When it came to losing Bloodstock this year, I have tried hard to be positive, but it was gutting. Simply because for that weekend; everything, everywhere is forgotten. An experience that I get to share with loved ones and over the last few years, new and interesting people.
…but that feeling of guilt just won’t go away. What do I have to complain about? So, you have to wait another year for one of the most consistently important experiences to you? How can you complain about having another gig cancelled when some people don’t know where their next meal is coming from because they’ve been sacked?
People’s livelihoods have been wrecked and many more are in danger. There is no comparison, yet this lack of gigs is directly piling on the misery. No gigs, no venues open, no money coming in and no way to stay afloat.
This is a crisis affecting the entirety of the music scene regardless of genre or taste. Think it doesn’t affect you because you only go to arena shows? The O2 isn’t opening its doors if it can only fill 1/3 of its seats. It would simply be unaffordable.
Fair enough, the big venues will probably survive this but what about the grassroot venues? Where does the future of music play when there are no small venues left? Would Iron Maiden be the behemoth they are today if the Ruskin Arms had been closed in their early years ?
We’re facing one of the most difficult periods for the industry and I’m genuinely struggling to see how we can turn the corner. Smarter people then I have proposals and I urge you to go read all that information right here.
What I do know is that we all need to do what we can right now. If that means buying a bit of merch, donating to a fund, resharing a social media post, writing to your local MP, screaming at traffic…whatever, then do it.
We’ve all taken this for granted, inaction right now would be disastrous and when it is safe for gigs to happen make sure we’re there, supporting with every fibre of our being. Buy the ticket, go to the show (early for support bands too), buy a beer and pick up some merch.
They need us as much as we need them.