We just long to get back to live events

Online events were the theme of 2020 but by summer 2021 we want to get back to live shows. Let's hope it happens soon, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
We just long to get back to live events

3,000 people enjoying a party at the First Dance, hosted by club-night Circus, in Liverpool last week.

The return of clubbing to the UK last week brought some amazing footage and pictures of a full-on rave with 3,000 people enjoying a party at the First Dance, hosted by club-night Circus. There was no social distancing and mask-wearing at this pilot event, which will be used to test data for the eventual reopening of the industry. The live music industry is economically and culturally important, but it has been on its knees for 15 months now.

In Ireland, there are one or two encouraging signs too, but for now, I don’t think we will be having much full-on shows until winter at least. As the summer kicks in this week, it’s depressing to think that we will miss another few months of peak festival season, but despite one or two murmurs to the contrary, it seems inevitable that we will be waiting a good while yet to get things back up and running here.

Last week the news from this pilot event was accompanied by an Irish Examiner front page where a confidential memo stated that reopening hospitality was a priority, with the Taoiseach Micheál Martin hoping that “pubs and restaurants can fully open within three months”. Indoor gatherings are still a “high risk activity”, so it’s difficult to see how clubbing can realistically come back so soon, but hopefully our vaccination programme will make good progress over the summer too.

Only a week after MCD boss Denis Desmond said that the chances of the Electric Picnic happening were “not good”, there was speculation that it could still happen after comments from the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last weekend. He said he hoped that both the Picnic and National Ploughing Championships could go still go ahead, but it seems pie in the sky thinking really at this stage, and the organisers of the Ploughing have already criticised the lack of consultation from the government.

Realistically, bar stripped down events, it’s gonna be winter before we can really get back to some degree of normality regarding live events and clubbing.

The MCDs and Aikens of the world are all scheduling smaller gigs for winter and bigger ones for next year and like all promoters they are speculating on a week-to-week basis. But it’s telling that many of the big indoor shows, even in smaller venues, are now scheduling or being moved to winter. That’s not good news for many and already lots of the summer season has cancelled.

Some festivals are trying to mix small in person events with online ones, and the Cork Midsummer Festival has just announced an innovative mix of both, with decisions on much of the execution of the events pending for the moment.

With arts and cultural events such as the Cork Midsummer Festival, there is probably a little bit more room for manoeuvre than for straight up regular gigs and shows, and many in those venues remain frustrated at the uncertainty ahead. It’s becoming more and more difficult to plan events and shows, which are tricky to plan anyway in even good times.

Cyprus Avenue have announced a very strong line-up of winter gigs and it’s great to see them filling up their schedule, so we can only hope that it’s all sorted by then.

The music artists themselves will continue to try and keep going but I know a lot in the industry who have had to move on to other things. There were some supports for the industry at Christmas and a few more were announced lately, but it often doesn’t filter down to many and only some artists will get funding.

Many sound engineers, bar staff, artists, DJs, promoters, riggers and more will continue to find work very difficult this summer, and while music continued to be made at home and in studios, the opportunity to share it live continues to be tricky.

Online events were the theme of 2020 but by 2021 there is a certain weariness at play, and despite some great efforts and productions, most of us are a little fed up of watching shows on laptops and phones in the summer of 2021. It’s the only way forward for the moment to some degree, but let’s hope things start to change soon and let’s hope these lockdowns will be a thing of the past by next winter.

In a few months time, we might be able to start to enjoy these busy shows again.

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