Already there are many ideas flying around from the drive in gigs model to the venues with reduced social distancing built into them.
Of course we are willing this to happen, we need the venues and we need the bands and we need the music. It’s far easier to cheer this into happening when you have no intention of actually going yourself and are one of those armchair generals who like the idea of gigs but don’t go to them but what if you are actually on the frontline like the venues, their staff and the bands themselves. There are lots of logistic difficulties which we will have to attempt to overcome.
My band Membranes have a tour of the UK in September playing with The Chameleons and we are keen to make this happen.
Of course the virus situation keeps changing every day – who knows there may even be a vaccine by the autumn (unlikely), treatment will be better to hopefully make C19 more manageable, and better ‘living with the virus’ facilities will be with us (even in the UK – the sick man of Europe)…
Like most bands the live arena is the moment but there are a lot of hurdles to get over. We are happy to problem solve and try and get round this…so here are 10 immediate hurdles…
What we will need is a whole new contract/rider/a Covid manifesto for gigs so the band and the venue know exactly what they are doing and expect from each other.
Cramming up to ten people in a van to move around the country is not really ‘socially distant’. It’s a bit like being crammed on a tube train in London but for four hours plus there and back with windows jammed shut as the British weather will be being unkind as ever.
Will vans have to be crammed with hand cleanser? will we all have to wear masks and gloves? and then hope for the best? will it mean hiring two vans to travel and who will pay for that?
International travel will be much trickier – quarantine, escalating travel costs and partial lockdowns that will happen will make touring a huge lottery.
Do we bring our own backline? Will we have to make sure no-one else touches it from the van to the stage and back into the van again? Making sure that no-one touches it , either from carrying it or leaning on it as it seems the pesky Covid sticks itself to a myriad of surfaces with ease.
Backstage is generally a rabbit warren of very narrow corridors and tiny dressing rooms – often the support band doesn’t get a dressing room and is sat in the corridor. Can this all be made to work with social distancing? Maybe only one band at once can use the backstage and then leave? What happens with food? hotels have now banned buffets so the crisps and old sandwich riders may need a bit of rethinking. Will riders now have masks, hand cleaner and gloves on them instead of loads of booze.
The initial models for gigs are talking about supper club type events where people have to sit at a table or are standing but spaced out across the venues – maybe in allowed zones. Obviously this will mean something like 100 people in a 300 capacity room – can the economics of this justify a band playing? we could play for break even just to make the culture happen and we totally sympathise with the situation that venues find themselves in but we can’t afford to lose money either – mainly because we don’t have any to loose! Maybe venues will be allowed to be full by then but no-one seems to be asking the virus for its permission to do this and we have to look out for the second wave (not of punk but of the virus…)
In the scheme of things this is not the biggest problem. Just being there will be a thrill for the band and audience but will the audience be allowed to the front of the stage – will the barriers be pushed ten foot into the room so the spit coming out of the singer’s mouth won’t land on the audiences heads? Will the audience and band be wearing masks and gloves? will look and feel strange but if needs be…
How do we perform in the Covid times? surely one of the great keys to live performance is being lost and immersed in the moment and not thinking, ‘oh shit I’m too close to that person!’ Will the band members have to be spaced apart on the stage? will the stage be big enough to allow this? will the headline band move their gear back to allow the other band space to do this?
Will the audience be drinking? what happens when people get too drunk and start having too good a time? will there be people banging into each other and, for gods sake! dancing? will it still be necessary to have 2 metres between us all?
A secondary consideration of course – the music is the main thing after all but without merch most touring bands would go bankrupt. Will it be possible to sell merch? will this be an added danger of human interaction – would people be able to use cash? will it all have to be on the card machine – again will everyone be wearing masks and gloves? will the merch itself be clean and germ free?
Tallinn Music Week are looking to do gigs in August and talking about emptying the venues out every couple of hours to clean them thoroughly and then let everyone back in again. Is that something that needs to be done? will there be people cleaning surfaces constantly, will the mics be clean? maybe we should bring our own mics and mic stands make sure no-one else touches them
Most smaller bands know the score – you have to slog back after the more locals shows but on a long tour this can be exhausting and leave your system open to more infection – will hotels be open, will they be affordable and more importantly will the be as clean and germ free as possible – how will we know?