BACK TO LIVE: Where were you when the fun stopped?
Solo performer and session player Greg Coulson is a gigging musician who has played with bands as varied as Spiritualized and The Blockheads, as well as having his own solo career. In March 2020 he was on tour in France.
“We had just finished our show at the Café Duc Des Lombardes in Paris and were told by our manager, ‘You’re all going home’."
The tour was cancelled and they got on a flight home the next day. “And then everything else got cancelled, “ he says. “My diary went from a full year’s worth of gigs to nothing in about 24 hours. There were international tours, album campaigns, festivals, TV shows… All gone. This was a problem. My wife was pregnant, I had no other means of income and to make matters worse, there was no way of knowing when we were going to be able to go back to normality and earn a living from music.”
What it meant for Greg, and for thousands of other professional musicians – at every level, from original touring bands to wedding bands, from orchestras to session musicians in recording studios to the guys in the pit in theatres, not to mention the bands playing your local – was an end to the revenue streams they depend on.
And it wasn't just musicians affected either: the sound engineers, the lighting guys, the doormen, the bar staff, the venue owners, the merch teams, tour managers, road crew, the promoters, agents – everyone who makes live music happen, and everyone in the supply chain around music has been affected.
But now it’s coming back.
Back To Live is our attempt to salute the return of live music.
Back to Live is a cross platform event/campaign that's running across all of Future’s music sites and magazine over the coming months – and here on MusicRadar over the next couple of days – celebrating the (responsible) return of live music through videos, articles and live events (TBC), in an effort to help the live music market go from zero all the way up to 11 as safely, quickly and loudly as possible.
We’ve been planning it for a while and, like everyone else, musicians and venues alike, we’ve been plagued by uncertainty and asking ourselves the same question: Is live music really coming back?
The answer is, yes it is. Regulations may vary across the world. You might not be able to go and see a band where you live yet but make no mistake, whether it's a matter of weeks or months, it’s coming.
The green shoots of live music’s recovery are already visible.
At the weekend, Foo Fighters played to a crowd of 20,000 vaccinated punters at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the venue’s first concert in 460 days.
This is last weekend. Look at them:
Also last weekend in the UK, Download Pilot – a scaled-down version of Download Festival, the rock and metal festival that had been held at Donington Park every year since 2003 – played host to 10,000 festival goers who had to camp and remain onsite for the weekend. They also had to submit proof of a negative PCR and lateral flow test to gain entry and take a subsequent PCR test after the event.
This isn't an old clip, it's just days ago. Look at them:
The Download Pilot was a part of the UK Government’s Events Research Programme, a series of events held to support the return of live music, providing essential data to track the virus’s transmission at events. Initial events included the BRIT awards, the FA Cup Final and some gigs and club nights.
58,000 people took part in those initial research events. Indoors. No masks or social distancing required inside the venue.
Seriously, look at these maniacs:
So how many of those 58,000 people registered a positive Covid test after the events?
It goes without saying that we must be careful and responsible. The fight against a virus that has taken countless lives, continues. We have to follow the advice of our scientists and governments, but venues are adapting and a newly-vaccinated audience is desperate to get out and enjoy live music again. Ticket sales at UK grassroots venues are up 140% up on 2019 levels. The demand is there and in a period in which few bands will be able to tour internationally it could be a boom time for 'local talent'.
It’s time to bring the culture back to life.
16 months after he was sent home from Paris, Greg Coulson recently found himself performing for 30 socially distanced people in Broadstairs in Kent – "a very strange and surreal experience," he says.
In the last year he built a recording studio with a friend (Adam Gammage, drummer for Tom Grennan and Eliot Sumner) that meant he "could still be creative, still play music and earn money from remote recording and remote teaching."
He and his wife had their baby and the weeks at home couldn't have come at a better time. He put effort into recording and developing his production skills.
"I’ve played a few gigs," he says. "To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m ready to get back just yet. It’s been hard to judge if you’re doing the right thing or not. Right now my diary has about a third of the amount of engagements compared to that of early 2020.
"I love performing live and I miss it. But I also enjoy recording, writing and arsing around in a studio for hours on end. I'll take a couple more months please," he laughs. "I need to finish my masterpiece."
So join MusicRadar, Guitar World and Louder from 25 June for Back to Live, a massive Summer-long celebration of and prep boot camp for the return of proper, in-your-face, living, live music.
We'll be celebrating the highs of performing with star artists, and getting you back up to stage or crowd fitness so you're ready to dive headlong into the coming summer of madness.
Tune in for rehearsal tactics, soundcheck tips, set-up details and more - plus, natch, a smorgasboard of all the top gear you'll need to nail any show, whether that's a modular extravaganza, stripped-back power trio frenzy or pumping DJ set.
Bookmark this page now and come back tomorrow for all this and a whole lot more.
Let's get this party restarted.