The lockdown may have stopped live music – but we need its dopamine fix more than ever

Ani Glass. Photo by Ani Saunders

David Owens

It’s inconceivable to measure how much I miss live music.

The saying ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’ has never rung so true since the moment the global pandemic turned all our worlds upside down in March.

Coronavirus forced the live entertainment industry into lockdown, mothballed for an indeterminate length of time.

As venues, from grassroots to arenas, closed their doors it saddled those who work in the industry with an uncertain future.

Coping with the limitations of the new normal has presented many challenges. Not least knowing where we would be and what we would be doing if the pandemic wasn’t now our immediate reality. It’s left us pining for the people and places that underpinned our world.

This unprecedented state of affairs was put into sharp focus last week when a key date in the calendar for Welsh music fans – the Sŵn Festival weekend in Cardiff  – came and went with a mix of mournful sorrow, fond reminiscence and a collective sigh at what could have been.

This annual new music gathering is a joyous congregation, an amorphous mass of sweet humanity sweeping from one venue to another with a shared musical bond. It’s always a unifying force and an opportunity to discover your new favourite band into the bargain.

it also exhibits all the identifying traits that make live music such an escapist pleasure.

That moment of shared experience, of community and a sense of belonging.

Power

Eight months into this pandemic I cannot begin to describe how much I miss the transformative and transportative power of a gig to carry you out of yourself in a moment of pure elevation and connection between audience and artist.

Now we’re socially distanced from our old way of life we’ve had to learn to live without those things we love.

With the entire live music sector thrown into a state of flux, the opportunity for musicians to perform live, earn income and grow their fanbase has been halted.

Musicians with long-standing tours in the diary and album releases scheduled have had to re-think their plans.

However, being forced to cancel tours has presented resourceful and resilient artists with new ways of connecting to their audiences through online gigs and streamed shows on Facebook and Instagram, giving them new-found momentum and hope in these difficult times.

In return our appetite for listening to and discovering new music thankfully remains undiminished. If anything it’s emboldened our desire to help those artists we love and those we are only now discovering.

There has been an upsurge in creativity and resourcefulness across the board – from established artists to those lesser known names in the embryonic stages of their own personal musical journeys.

Welsh rock ‘n’ roll frontiersmen Mike Peters and his wife Jules have developed a series of shows titled The Big Night In.

Mike Peters Big Night In

Streamed live on Facebook from his home in North Wales on A Saturday evening, thousands of fans tune in for these live broadcasts from The Alarm frontman – a mixture of live performance, storytelling and documentary.

They were so well received, they’re now well into a second season of shows.

Mighty first ladies of Welsh music Georgia Ruth, Ani Glass, and Bryde teamed up for an evening of live broadcasts on Instagram to promote their respective new albums, while the ever-brilliant On Par Productions filmed a series of shows from the CULTVR performance space in the Welsh capital featuring an array of Wales’ finest including Panic Shack, The Gentle Good, Ivan Moult, DJ Yoda, Rosehip Teahouse, TJ Roberts, Teddy Hunter, HMS Morris, and Quiet Marauder.

You can watch these shows back and discover many more ingenious creatives via Welsh culture multimedia platform www.amam.cymru

HMS Morris at CULTVR

When Focus Wales faced the postponement of their annual music conference and festival staged in Wrexham in May, they successfully took it online curating seminars, sessions and live shows across a weekend in September.

Meanwhile, just down the A55, Mold’s most famous musical residents and one of the planets hardest working bands, The Joy Formidable, have created their own music club offering streamed acoustic concerts, exclusive new songs, merch discounts, a live album and limited edition gifts, as a way of enabling fans to support their work while they’re off the road.

Of course, we can all do our part to support bands and musicians whose key source of income – touring, has been taken away from them.

We can buy their music and merchandise, stream their songs and support their online shows – a lifeline for performers.

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard

One of Wales’ finest new bands, whose shows are always inevitably a sweaty mass of thrills, are sultans of the scissor kick, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard.

The enthralling combo, who have built a sizeable following since signing with Communion Records, home to the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen, will be playing a streamed live show from Portland House in Cardiff on December 9 to promote their new single 30,000 Megabucks. You can purchase the single, tickets and t-shirts here: http://bbb.lnk.to/beautifulshow

It’s certain to be a night to remember. Albeit viewed from the comfort of your chosen boudoir, of course.

Sanctuary

While the future remains uncertain, let’s never forget that music is a sanctuary. It’s a dopamine fix for our mental well-being, a shot-in-the-arm to keep us strong in these turbulent times. Never have we needed it more.

When the ‘new normal’ is finally transplanted to a hollow remembrance, we’ll rebuild, restart, recalibrate and reignite the muscle memory of the way we were.

It’s all we can do. And do it, we must.

So when we come together again, let’s vow not to take our wonderful music venues, music makers, and each other, for granted.

I can’t begin to pre-empt the excitement and emotion that awaits when I cross the threshold of my old life, back into the welcoming arms of an actual live show.

For now, I’m living for the anticipation of its return.

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