I think I speak for the rest of the Bucketheads when I say: I miss going to concerts. I understand it’s important to stay home and avoid large crowds during this whole pandemic, but without my weekly dose of live music, life has become incredibly dull and pointless.
I feel lame admitting a lot of my personality is based around music. I miss practicing with my band. My weekly college radio show feels aimless without any shows to promote. Between working and sleeping, I feel like I have nothing to occupy my mind (besides watching countless horror movies).
The banning of large gatherings has been a major blow to touring musicians. In the absence of live music, artists are live-streaming their performances online, some more creatively than others. Unfortunately, I have zero interest in hearing acoustic covers played from the comfort of your living room, even if you are Dave freaking Grohl. I crave distortion and drums.
A handful of bands have held virtual concerts in empty venues. Some bands have pulled this off masterfully, and others, not so much. The reason the live-streams of Code Orange and Dropkick Murphys looked great and sounded great is because they had multiple cameras moving across the stage, with the sound being fed through the board where it could be properly mixed. Code Orange was an especially stimulating watch because their performance was intercut with trippy 3D visuals. The reason other streams didn’t turn out so well is because they were filmed in a practice space by a single camera, usually off a smartphone, staying in one place. The sound quality is even worse due to the phone’s mic picking up the sound of the room, which it wasn’t designed to do. The guitars and vocals usually gets drowned out by the drums, and the levels keep clipping.
Broadcasting a live video comes with its technical difficulties, as evidenced by the weekly Psychostick YouTube stream. The video tends to lag or the picture frequently glitches, probably because of they decided to include the comment stream and the donation counter in the same screen. I get it, not every band has the budget to pull off an eye-grabbing, multi-angled, well-mixed live-stream. Even if it’s professional, it’s still surreal to see a band play to an empty room. The silence between songs is deafening and the band seems less energetic. Jami Morgan of Code Orange is known for hyping up the crowd during instrumental segments, shouting “go crazy!” or “get the fuck up!” But seeing him yell that to nobody was definitely strange.
One of the upsides to a live-stream is you don’t have to deal with the annoying people you normally encounter at a show: the crowd-killer who goes around kicking people who are clearly not interested in moshing, the tall jerk who is always standing in front of you, or that one person in front filming the entire show on their phone. You can enjoy the concert in your home, in only your underwear, dancing with no one judging you, and drinking beer without the fear of having it knocked out of your hand by some mosher. It’s also fun to read the chat stream and see what people are thinking. It’s surprisingly positive as far as video comments are concerned. Some get creative and role-play moshing online. Probably the best comment I saw was “Guys, I just dropped my glasses. Can everyone stop and help me look for them?”
With a virtual concert, more eyeballs can watch the show. Instead of the couple hundred people crammed into a venue, there are tens of thousands all around the world tuning in to watch, with thousands more rewatching the footage later on.
Regardless, a virtual concert doesn’t compare to the experience of the real thing. Yes, it dulls the pain for the time being, but it’s not enough to fill the void. I would gladly take the ringing in my ears, the sore muscles in my neck and the bruises on my arms just to feel the heavy music vibrate throughout my entire body once again, joined by a room full of people equally as stoked. This piece-of-shit virus has robbed us of amazing tours and festivals like Pouzza and Apriliis, with many more cancellations likely to be announced.
I’m hoping in a couple months or so, the doors to venues will be able to open again and this rant will no longer be relevant. But for the time being, I don’t see this lockdown lifting anytime soon. And even if it does, without a vaccine readily available, people will still be wary of going outside and congregating in large numbers. It will take some time for the music industry to recover once this is over.
The question needs to be asked: will virtual concerts still be a thing in the future? Are we witnessing an evolution in the medium of live music? As much as I would like for things to return to the way they used to be, there’s no point standing in the way of progress. Everything is uncertain now, so for now, please show your support by buying music and merch online, and donating to your favourite venue.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*edited by Danielle Kenedy