Concerts and gigs during the Covid-19 pandemic? Well, for most of us small-time musicians, life sort of came to a halt in the spring of 2020. Studio production could continue, online concerts could take place, and it has been a time for exploring our direction and compositional skills. However, the live music landscape had changed forever. Many major players have found that online concerts are a sure financial success. Most music lovers have found an enjoyment from the voyeurism of watching real stars play intimate sets from their living rooms. All in all, the communication of music to an audience has taken a sharper turn towards digital media and platforms.
There is something missing though. It is difficult to pin down, but it has to do with the personal connection between musician and listener. It is that particularly powerful magic that happens at a live venue, that energy that manifests in the air during a live performance. Performers thrive on it; it’s a drug of sorts, and attendees take it away to relive the moment later. One thing is sure—that connection is not birthed through online performances.
So, with drive-in movies as the inspiration I looked at the possibility of drive-in gigs. As I explored the idea it became evident that this was the ideal Covid-safe platform for live music. Sometime around August we put out feelers for suitable venues and had a positive conversation with the iconic World of Wedgwood, the Wedgwood factory here in the Potteries region of the UK. The visitor centre has a large carpark and a take-away food outlet already operating with Covid-responsible procedures.
It all came together on 17 October 2020. We built a temporary stage and arranged for ticket-holders to pick up radio headphones when they arrived. They stayed in their cars through the evening, except for visiting the restaurant to pick up food. We marked out a one-way system so that people did not pass within six feet of each other. Feedback unexpectedly came through flashing headlights at the end of each set. Headphones were deposited in a bin on the way out.
We had a fantastic evening with great reviews and an amazing post-concert buzz that lasted for a long time. Part of the satisfaction lay in having created a way of playing in front of a live audience that defeated the way Covid-19 had shut us down. There is a weak point—outside concerts in the winter are hard on performers. We are planning more concerts for the spring!
Copyright © 2021 John Shapter
Headzic, aka John Shapter, is a UK-based composer and performer of ambient and electronic experimental music, whose work is contemplative and atmospheric. His work has been influenced by his time as a clinician, a sound artist and an esoteric performer.