In response to the “Let The Music Play” campaign and the efforts of the Music Venues Trust, Amy Britton shares a personal love letter to live music.
On July 2nd, 2020, a hashtag emerged all over social media that will be close to every Louder Than War readers heart: #LetTheMusicPlay. This was far from a mere slogan, though; this was a call to our government to protect the live music industry, threatened by the covid-19 pandemic with fifty per cent of its workforce becoming unemployed, and ninety per cent of grassroots music venues closing – with a fifty million pounds rescue package. (If that sounds generous, consider the fact that in the year 2019 alone the live music industry contributed an astonishing 4.5 billion to the economy.)
Attached to this hashtag was people sharing pictures of the last gig they attended. For me it was the fiercely tight grunge-punk duo You Want Fox. Their simple response to my tweet hit me hard in how it captured of how special the live music scene is to me:
“We can’t wait to hang out with you again.”
Not just that they can’t wait to play live again, but that they can’t wait to hang out, given that, having first met them at one of their gigs at Rough Trade Nottingham, they are now just two of the many, many people I have forged friendships with through my years of gig-going and the bond of the live music scene. If that in itself does not speak volumes I don’t know what does. The live music scene is far from a frippery, and not just from an economic perspective.
The music itself can be everything from just a memorable night out to an actual life-defining moment, lifelong friendships are forged, and livelihoods established. The knock-on effect for me has equated shoulders cried on, weddings attended, charity funds raised, stressful weeks blown away with the first chord.
I’d love to say my first gig was something really cool which shaped me for the rest of my life, but it was PJ & Duncan in 1991, aged seven. Having fully established my “current” tastes in my adolescence, however , by sixteen my attendance at a sixth form college were I met many like-minded things had of course changed rapidly. Live music became a regular feature of my life. Sixth form social life can be very defining and the club scene of the small town centre did little for me. Live music, on the other hand, simply felt natural, taking what could have been a bedroom passion for music and sublimating it into my life in a way which continued through university too.
And then, of course, there were the darker months. The beauty of Louder Than War has often been its response to personal writing; from Simon Tucker’s incredible recent Joy Division piece to my victims-perspective on the Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines” controversy. Having written so openly about my period racked with a range of trauma-induced mental health issues, I’m sure it will surprise none of you that this also equated to a period of cutting myself off from my friends, and the healing process included regaining a social life. For me, one of the largest components of regaining that was of course attendance at gigs again. This time around, there would be a new element – rather than merely attending, I was now writing about them, having joined Louder Than War. I was reclaiming my personality and life felt hopeful again.
So, what of more recent times? I’m aware I don’t attend as many gigs as most writers, and that my commutes and busy daytimes see me seeking out weekend gigs, but that merely adds to the thrill and excitement. Thankfully, I managed to squeeze a lot of live music into January – my “birthday month” has always kept me from the tradition of money-saving stopping-in measures – but, frustratingly, I attended just one gig in February due to stormy, turbulent weather. My “famous last words” were, “its okay, I have loads lined up for the rest of the year…” I had thrown my hat into the ring for review spots on things I was looking forward too on levels personal and musical. The electric brutality of Girls in Synthesis live, an full-throttle experience worth getting bruised to high heavens for. The celebration of so much that’s wonderful about my local scene at this years Waterfront Festival. The road trip to the other side of the Midlands for the return of Bright Eyes, who has provided so much metaphorical musical hand-holding in my life that I know it would have been emotional.
These have all been rescheduled, and I sincerely hope that I will be writing about them and many more on the new dates. I hope that everybody gets to all the gigs they want, either as attendees or in some other role – actually playing, or behind the scenes. Next year will mark a decade of me writing for Louder Than War, and it would be wonderful to have some incredible stuff to be writing about. But this simply won’t happen if the government doesn’t step and help.
The thought of seeing so many friends of mine struggling for employment makes my heart sink. Live music is a way of life and, like fingerprints, each person’s story in relation to it will be different, but with shared characteristics. It is a part of our culture that we must not let die. This has been a love letter and its rare to sign one off with a plea to the government, but I – and so many others – are asking them to make the four words of that hashtag a reality.
Let The Music Play.
All words by Amy Britton. Read more on her archive at https://louderthanwar.com/author/amy-britton/
More on the Music Venues Trust can be found at http://musicvenuetrust.com/