Where once there were gigs, now, in these historic pandemic times, we have….the live stream. Aside from a very few small, socially distanced experiments, the only way bands and their fans can, for the moment, share musical times, is via the screen.
How we would have scoffed just a few months ago at the idea that we’d buy a ticket to a broadcast of a show. The internet has long provided us with many opportunities to watch live performances of current and past artists. The idea that this format constitutes our gig life for 2020 (and counting) is one to which many have recently succumbed, whilst others put their foot down and resist.
Watching home performances by your favourite artist need not be the depressing ‘they’re on the other side of the world, so can’t hear me cheer’ scenario it might at first seem. Artists are as hungry for your feedback as you are to be musically fed by them. The accessibility of many acts has, as a result, taken an interesting turn. They may invite requests prior to the show. There’s now also a good possibility they’ll read your message in the chat bit at the side of the screen when you watch their live or rebroadcast session. They may even respond directly. At a real live show, your comment about how much you loved the third song and danced to it at your wedding would very likely not be noticed by the band. Now, you’ve every chance they’ll be reading it, welling up and sending you heart-shaped emoticons. How the balance of power has shifted!
Your favourite artists may even have time to write a personal note to you as they usefully spend their days hand-packaging merchandise bought from their online store. (This happened to me, when I received a lovely thank you note, with my purchased t-shirt, from a singer who I never expected to be doing her own Post Office trips). We really may be able to draw some plus points from this virus mess.
Admittedly, it’s not as exciting to watch a much loved band belting out your favourite pogoing classic from your computer screen while you head-bang in your slippers. One motivating option is to get the group of friends who would have attended the show to watch at the same time as you and have a call/text exchange live. Remember to ask them what they want when you go to the bar (fridge) and remind them to look after your jacket when you go and queue for the loos. Keep it authentic.
And now, if you don’t mind, would you watch my drink, I want to check out the merch stall….?
Photograph: Richard Ashcroft performing at Hyde Park in London, in 2018. The backdrop of television screen images broadcasting the gig – unlikely to be a prophetic statement on the pandemic (a year and a half) around the corner, but a fittingly visual for these musings on streaming. © Imelda Michalczyk