These are strange times indeed friends.
Intimate seated metal shows? Live Streams? Patreon? It’s all feeling like a cultural defibrillator, a self administered ventilator, a headbanger’s hydroxychloroquine to keep our sector of the arts community afloat.
This self medication has had some interesting side effects.
It feels to me at the coal face that the silos between venue, artist, and punter have kind of mutated into a far more symbiotic relationship based on the shared need to survive, and the recognition that the three cohorts can’t do it alone.
While the modest capacities of the live shows afford bands a chance to splash “SOLD OUT” on the socials, it’s absolutely life-critical stuff for the venues.
From Canberra’s perspective, while The Basement, Canberra Theatre, and others are ramping up with a creative approach to shows, it looks like Transit has has sadly drowned in the Covid 19 mess for now.
The approach by the venues to keep the tinnitus ticking over has been admirable to say the least. Coming up with new experiences reflects this renewed relationship between artists and venues by a bit more altruism to punters in the form of presenting shows in new ways.
Witchskull and The Basement collaborated first. 10 people shows, 100 bucks, booze and food for two hours, and they pulled off, like, four shows in a couple of days. Seated in socially distant dedicated spots and served by the venue’s Covid plan covered butlers, Lance and team broke the ground as soon as the initial restrictions lifted.
Online, the Live in Ya Lounge crew have been putting on some killer online shows like the Pilots of Baalbek and Dog Eat Dog show (which you can still check out here https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=632689820790675 ) and there’s been a bunch of bands big and small doing interesting live streams.
As the new order gathered steam local punks Glitoris upped the ante – I think they were allowed 20 into The Basement with similar arrangements. The confidence grew across the community.
Now we’re in the 80 – 100 zone. Witchskull are midway between two sold out album launch shows at The Basement at the moment with 100 caps. If it wasn’t for Covid they’d probably be touring internationally on the strength of the response to the new album.
Canberra Theatre have taken note of the above and for the first time since the World Slavery Tour in 1985 where Iron Maiden fans tore out the seats as Bruce extolled Canberra to scream for him, heavy metal is coming back to the cultural heart of Canberra’s performing arts.
This was weird for me as I had to double take when I read Pod People had been offered a show with a four per table, 80 people cap in The Link bar. So it’s not quite in the big room (the seat scars may run deep) but a chance to play with Wretch and Lucifungus was jumped at by us.
I was asked by The Canberra Times what punters could expect. I answered honestly, “who knows?!?”. We played our last shows as the country locked down for Covid Lockdown One. They were fun but in the old non-distanced style of show. The kind of shows that seem from another life!
We don’t know what playing to seated audiences works. We’re gonna find out!
It seems like the punters are more than doing their parts. The Canberra Theatre show sold out in a few days. I can tell you from an artist’s perspective, it’s humbling and energising to get support in this way and I know the Witchskull boys feel the same.
So looking forward now, there’s a bunch more shows at The Basement coming up. If cover nights are your jam then the 8th of August at The Basement is a ’90s mega night with tributes to Pearl Jam, Kyuss and Radiohead, and another tribute night on the 22nd with an Iron Maiden tilt.
There’s also some celebrations to be had at Trapped Under Ice 6 with Reign of Terror extending their reign to 25 years (wow Mike Reggae!! Happy birthday) along with Inebriator, Clarity of Chaos, and Black Mountain on the 15th of August.
There are a whole slew of other events planned and evolving all the time across other genres too. Make no mistake, Canberra, we are very lucky.
Nationally, the picture has been pretty grim in the traditional stomping grounds.
The poor people of Melbourne are doing it tough. A lot of people in my network who run venues at the moment are on life support and I think we’ll see more than a few go under by the time we get to the other side of this.
The vaunted kings of the Valley, Crowbar, had to shut their spiritual home in Brisbane. This place, in my opinion of playing venues of all shapes and sizes, was the model nationally as to what a successful well run live venue should be based on. While the Sydney venue has survived, the Brisbane collapse shows just how much of a knife’s edge the venues are balancing on at the moment.
As for Patreon, bands like Ne Obliviscarus have been using it for a while, but lifers in the USA that live and die by live gigs are increasingly using the service to survive.
Even relatively successful musicians like The Darkness front man Justin Hawkins have monthly packages that allow fans access to him in ways that would previously been one off expensive VIP tickets.
More on the coal face though, one of my favourites included in Patreon survival world are killer doom lords Pallbearer who are also offering fans packages to help them negotiate the absence of income.
They still managed to release an edited version of a song from their forthcoming full length in the last couple of weeks.
Forgotten Days, the title track of said album features a wicked opening riff that I can’t get enough of, check it out:
So here we are, six months into this shit and tenacity is on display. How long it holds is a dynamic driven by the pandemic and shaped well beyond the challenges facing the entire arts community – locally, nationally, and across the world.
The answer to how the challenges are to be met is actually pretty simple – support each other.
Take care out there folks.