Remember gigs? Adam Barton on how COVID is still playing havoc with the live music scene

Multi-award winning live music venue, Brooklyn Standard

Story by Adam Barton, live music bar operator, Brisbane

Remember gigs? Remember the unrivalled joy of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with screaming, sweating strangers? Or being doused in some random liquid thrown from somewhere behind you, hoping it was beer or a whiskey and not bodily fluid from the overweight sweaty guy in a cheap Tarocash suit ripping it up behind you on the dancefloor? The terrible gigs where the band on stage only played their new songs and nothing that any of the crowd even knew? The life-changing shows where they played the songs you love, and it felt like they were playing them just for you? Do you remember the noise, the lights, and the ceremony of it all?

Remember the 22nd March 2020? I sure as hell do. It was the day all of our worlds changed.. The government announced the closure of licensed venues nationwide. For how long? What would we do? What would my staff do? How would they pay their rent? How would they feed themselves?

The lights, the music. Gone. COVID killed what the elders in Footloose couldn’t. For the months that followed, the idea of breathing the same bodily fluid-filled air as hundreds of strangers became as appealing as licking a hospital doorknob. Thank you COVID. You killed the fun.

For nearly four months we sat at home and listened to our favourite tunes on Spotify, digging through old vinyl, tuned in to streamed DJ gigs and wondered whether a couple of shots of Jameson might make it feel a little bit more like the real thing… Well, it didn’t.
Brisbane may not be considered the epicentre of live music for Australia but we sure as hell do love it and we love to support the venues that offer it. Since reopening and the unworkable restrictions have been lifted, Brisbane patrons have flocked to get their fix of the good juice we call live music!

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Don’t get me wrong, there will be carnage in the coming months, as there are venues hanging on by the smell of an oily rag, but for the most we are back, and we are back in force. The sounds of punters footsteps rushing towards venues on the weekend in Brisbane sounds like an angry herd of wild rhinos running across the plains in Africa towards a watering hole to get their lips wet.

But will it ever be quite the same again? Will we want to randomly lock lips with a complete random stranger on the dance floor? Will we pack into a dancefloor like a can of John West sardines? Will we ever get that same high as you and your best mates scream the lyrics to Toto Africa at 2am jammed into a little dive bar you don’t even know the name of? So many questions and so many unknowns.

What is clear is that whatever version of the live music industry emerges, bloodied and battered, from this pandemic, it will bear little resemblance to the one that came before. There are bigger venues that rely on international and interstate touring artists, and who knows when we will see planes arriving from overseas again, with international artists gracing our shores. But hey, this maybe the perfect opportunity for us to dig a little deeper into discovering local musicians in our own backyards, as god knows there is so much talent out there that this may be the what they needed to get that chance to rock it out on our stages.

Whatever happens will happen… But hey we are on the way there! Just hang on.

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