The Socially Distanced Gig – does it work?

With proper touring put off until at least next year, artists and venues have turned to putting on a new kind of gig; the kind where no pints are thrown, everyone’s sat down, and you’re at least two metres away from anybody else. It’s a dream come true for some, but others would argue getting drenched in beer and other people’s sweat is all part of the True Gig Experience.

The concept of socially distanced gigs was ridiculed when it was first brought up, with many questions over the viability of venues operating at 30% of their normal capacity. However the idea was persevered, and after the government’s July announcement that live events could go ahead outdoors in a socially distant manner, a whole new way of gigging was born.

One of the first promoters to trial out this new gig format was Live Nation, who booked series of drive-in concerts across the UK for August 2020. Artists such as Tom Grennan, The Streets, and Dizzee Rascal were all set to perform as part of a tour; but less than a month after it was announced, it was cancelled over fears of local lockdown restrictions.

Seemingly undeterred by the apparent failings of the ‘Live From The Drive-In’ tour, a more successful gig attempt came from a pop-up event space in Newcastle – the Virgin Money Unity Arena. Kicking things off with two nights of Sam Fender, Newcastle’s newest venue showed that socially-distanced gigs were possible; at least during summer months anyway.

Six-weeks of outdoor concerts successfully went ahead, before tougher restrictions in the north east of England forced the final weekend of shows to be cancelled. It might not have been the ending they hoped for, but it showed live music could be brought back in some capacity.

Elsewhere, some smaller venues have begun to put on socially distanced shows, with The Blinders, Black Honey, Working Men’s Club, and more performing for the first time since before lockdown. With the desperation to hear live music ever-building, I headed to Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds to watch The Orielles play a sold-out show.

The Orielles perform live

Quick entry, table service, and a great view of the stage no matter your height; socially distanced performances place a new level of ease into gig-going, avoiding long bar queues, wild crowds, and your view being blocked by someone twice as tall as you. The sets may be a little shorter, the post-gig drinks may be non-existent, and you might find yourself home before 11pm, but the desire to be back hearing live music goes beyond all of that.

Spinning through songs from their first and second records, The Orielles played a beauty of a gig, with the biggest crowd reaction coming for fan favourite, ‘Sunflower Seeds’. Short but sweet, the band’s woozy psych-pop sounds felt perfect for a Sunday evening, a gentle introduction to the new world of socially distanced gigging.

Whilst The Orielles are used to bouncing crowds and whole venue singalongs; social distancing only allows for dancing whilst sat two metres away from others, so unfortunately there were no attempts to make a mosh-pit, as impressive as it would’ve been whilst seated.

Credit: Paceycakes on Imgur

Although gigs won’t be back to ‘normal’ for the foreseeable; just being able to sit and hear music being played live is a huge mood-booster, emitting a small ray of hope in what remains a scary period of time. The Socially Distanced Gig? It’s alright for now ❤︎

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