The Day the Live Concert Returns
May 12, 2020 11:44 AM   Subscribe

I don’t know when it will be safe to sing arm in arm at the top of our lungs. But we will do it again, because we have to. Dave Grohl writes for The Atlantic's "Uncharted" series about the changes coronavirus is wreaking and will continue to wreak on the world.
posted by Etrigan (30 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
The desire for human beings to have a shared, in-person experience will not go away because of a pandemic. It's wired in our DNA. It may not be rock. Maybe you want to see classical music, or hip-hop, or an opera, or a stage play, or just someone talking.

That said, I'm not as much longing for the return of big arena shows as much as small venues. Some of the best shows I've been to are in rooms of 100-500 people.

And I'm really not looking forward to getting the email that my Kraftwerk concert in July is cancelled. Florian wasn't going to be there anyway, but it'll still sting coming after that.
posted by SansPoint at 11:59 AM on May 12 [14 favorites]


I'm pretty bummed about the concerts I'm not going to be able to attend. But my boyfriend is an opera singer and he's just heartbroken over the reality that he's probably not going to have an opportunity to perform for a live audience for year(s). And I don't have anything to comfort him with.
posted by PMdixon at 11:59 AM on May 12 [17 favorites]


For the first time in a couple decades I had tickets to a bunch of upcoming concerts this year. One was cancelled and three of them are postponed until 2021, which I still think is optimistic.

It feels weird to complain or to be sad about something like this, given that so many people are sick, dying, or out of work, but I'm still sad.

But, man, everyone's first shows after all this are going to be legendary.
posted by bondcliff at 12:02 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


"One of these things is not like a virus..."
posted by hwestiii at 12:12 PM on May 12


Personal recollection: living in Jersey City during Sandy. Our neighborhood was pretty well shutdown for 6 or 7 days, the office I worked in was closed for months, and a lot of local businesses and bars were closed from flooding and damage for weeks. I had been home, except for walks and bike rides, pretty much 100% of the time for about a month (felt something like this, but less universal, and more concrete. There were giant downed trees and power lines and overturned cars and stuff, it was scary and stressful all the same).

At the time we lived a very short and pleasant walk from a great little club, you might have heard of it, it was called Maxwells. We went all the time, for bands we knew or not, and it was glorious. So one Saturday (I think, no fact checking available here), I hear about a show. Don't recall how, maybe had the tickets already from before the storm. So I walk on down and hit the backroom, and it's packed, and Karl is behind the bar, and I chug a beer and the band starts playing loud and my god the relief just poured over me. A flood of of all these memories dumped out, of the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, City Gardens, CB's, punk shows from years earlier, and I'll never forget the feeling, standing in the crowd, rock and roll can save your soul.

Today, it seems like there is no chance of a moment like that for us, coming out of this time - we won't get to storm the bar and hug and scream. I won't be able to push into a crowd and hear a big guitar and bask in the joyful noise. But man, yeah, if we ever do get back there, shiiiiiiit.
posted by pilot pirx at 12:24 PM on May 12 [18 favorites]


i also love small intimate shows but the large arena shows for bands that can sell the tickets often mean greater access to folks who could not afford the often crazy expensive ticket prices for the intimate shows.

especially when scalpers buy out all 500 tickets and the price jumps from 100 to 1000

also dave grohl is a national treasure
posted by lazaruslong at 12:31 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


The last show I saw before everything shut down was the Philly Pops doing the songs of Phil Collins. I badly need something better.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:31 PM on May 12 [10 favorites]


I'm not a social person but live music has been one of the few things I've been willing to put up with large crowds and little personal space to enjoy. It's going to be a long time before I'm comfortable in that environment again. All the shows I had tickets for this year from March forward are postponed or canceled or will be shortly, but I'm not sure I'm going to be up for them even when they are held.

Really bummed about the Welcome to Night Vale + Eliza Rickman show that we were supposed to see in March. More bummed for WtNV and Eliza that they had to cancel, since I'm sure that's huge income loss for them. And generally worried for all the small venues that are hanging by a thread right now.

I will say, I've long had the attitude of going to see artists when you have the chance because you never know when bands will split or an artist will leave us too soon. I'm so glad for all the shows I've seen and live music experiences I have had. I hope others will get to do the same again soon.
posted by jzb at 12:32 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Oh, Robyn Hitchcock was my last live show before the whole COVID thing. Caught him at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC. Dragged my fiance, her daughter, and a friend to that one. I'm glad I did.
posted by jzb at 12:34 PM on May 12 [5 favorites]


It feels weird to complain or to be sad about something like this, given that so many people are sick, dying, or out of work, but I'm still sad.

It is not weird. These are things that bring meaning and joy to our lives. Life isn't just about living, hanging around alone at home because there's a pandemic, and then eventually dying. I'm sad because the American Dance Festival was cancelled, and that was one (of many, thankfully) reasons why living in Durham appealed to me. I'm sad that everything at every local theaters is canceled and that all of the artists and touring groups who'd usually be coming around are all out of work too. I'm sad that ... well, you get the picture.

People always got sick, died, and laid off. Now it's so bad that we don't even have the fun stuff to do in the midst of all the usual sickness, dying, and layoffs that come with life. So no, it's not weird to complain or be sad about it.

Outdoor performances should at least have a chance of coming back sometime sooner rather than later. With social distancing and face coverings for the audience, and all.
posted by bananana at 12:34 PM on May 12 [11 favorites]


I just rewatched the magical Queen performance at Live Aid that Grohl mentions, and seeing that sea of people from the stage reinforced his points about just what we've lost, and why he is right that it will - it must - return.
posted by PhineasGage at 12:45 PM on May 12 [5 favorites]


pilot pirx -- if I could favorite your post ten times, I would.
posted by spilon at 2:30 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


lazaruslong: i also love small intimate shows but the large arena shows for bands that can sell the tickets often mean greater access to folks who could not afford the often crazy expensive ticket prices for the intimate shows.

Oh, I'm talking about small venues and lesser-known bands. I'd never be able to swing seeing a huge, arena-bookable band in a space like Saint Vitus Bar, but I've seen a number of great shows and dear friends in that space, and all for < $20 a ticket.
posted by SansPoint at 2:38 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


For a few years I’ve had a steady weekly jazz gig. At the end of the night, the guitar player would tell the audience, “We’ll be here every week until the end of time.”
So here we are at the end of time. No idea if the club will ever re-open. I don’t expect to perform again in 2020.
I hear they are holding concerts in drive-in theatres somewhere. Denmark maybe.
posted by Jode at 3:09 PM on May 12 [6 favorites]


Really bummed about the Welcome to Night Vale + Eliza Rickman show that we were supposed to see in March.

I had tickets to one of their Brooklyn shows in April. According to the venue it’s been rescheduled into November, but with Cecil being immune-compromised I don’t think it’s an ironclad guarantee.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:37 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Welcome to Night Vale... According to the venue it’s been rescheduled into November, but with Cecil being immune-compromised I don’t think it’s an ironclad guarantee.

It'll be OK to attend in person so long as you don't bring your body.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:54 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I read that Dave Grohl piece and was looking forward to it being posted here. I miss going to shows, but I miss performing even more. When my band isn't playing weddings for 100-200 guests, we often play at a 550-capacity club and routinely sell it out. I enjoy when we play larger venues, too, but I think it's much more fun to fill a small venue. The mind reels at how much money the band has lost the last few months, with canceled or postponed gigs all while paying rent on a rehearsal space that we had just moved into in March and haven't used once.
posted by emelenjr at 3:58 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


"I don’t know when it will be safe to return to singing arm in arm at the top of our lungs, hearts racing, bodies moving, souls bursting with life. But I do know that we will do it again, because we have to."

Well... it's a DIFFERENT experience to do this with 100 people rather than thousands, but it does give us a lot of the same things. I think it's entirely possible that will become the new normal.
posted by metasarah at 3:59 PM on May 12


Oh, I'm talking about small venues and lesser-known bands. I'd never be able to swing seeing a huge, arena-bookable band in a space like Saint Vitus Bar, but I've seen a number of great shows and dear friends in that space, and all for < $20 a ticket.

ahh right on, that makes sense. i've only ever found out about bands that i really like early enough to see them in small spaces a couple times. after shows become a thing again, i should make an effort to go to smaller shows instead of just my annual The National show or w/e
posted by lazaruslong at 4:22 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I kind feel like it's going to be years before I'm comfortable going to a show again.
posted by octothorpe at 4:42 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


yeah i hear ya. i feel like it's gonna be a vaccine before i'm comfortable going to shows / many many other things. i hope that happens, and i hope it happens in the next year or two.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:05 PM on May 12


My girlfriend plays.. played? in a community college band. Nothing fancy, just non-degree-seeking credits so she could get together with fifty-ish other people and play music together one night a week, two concerts a semester. I went to her first concert of the semester two weeks before it all went to shit; the second was canceled I think about the same time the shelter-in-place order came down. With all of this, it's the thing she misses most. She has lessons with her teacher via Zoom once a week, and I do my best to make the technical stuff go as well as it can, but at the end of the day there's at minimum 50-100ms latency, and that's way over the floor of what humans can perceive (<10ms, research says). The only time I know of real-time jamming over IP working out was when two universities -- Concordia and somewhere, but I forget the somewhere -- had their respective bands on either end of a very long dedicated fiber link. That's the only way they got the latency down low enough for it to feel right.

I'm an engineer, and I have engineer's disease. I'll own it. I see "we can't play together" as a problem, and I love her and I want to fix it for her, but.. the speed of light and commodity packet switching hardware just ain't what it needs to be. No fixing that. I know it's a silly thing to feel bad about, given all the everything else, but, here we are.

If anyone has any ideas, though.. workarounds? hacks? to help recapture some of that elation of playing in a group all together.. I'm all ears. [edit]Yes I know about Ninjam. It's really clever but it's not the same.[/edit]
posted by Alterscape at 8:45 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


@alterscape yeah i've been messing with similar ideas, unfortunately "normal" internet access is pretty high latency and poor peer-to-peer support (eg: lots of NAT).
Maybe WebRTC offers a way around this, or some kind of SIP?
Oh for a low-latency edge network :-(
posted by nickzoic at 9:44 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I read this earlier today and it absolutely resonates. I remember the excitement and the freedom and the humanness I felt at one of my first live shows, in the mosh pit right in front of the stage. On rare occasions, these days when I see any kind of live performance the feeling of connection with the performers is always there.

After watching Nick Cave getting close with the front row at Glastonbury I was reminded that I need to feel that connection again so I treated myself to a front-row ticket to his show here in October.

My personal goals for the next five months are to not die of COVID-19 and to think positive thoughts about being able to go to concerts by October.

At least if the November election brings on Apocalypse 2: The Apocalypsing, I'll have done something awesome recently.
posted by bendy at 11:14 PM on May 12


If anyone has any ideas, though.. workarounds? hacks? to help recapture some of that elation of playing in a group all together.

Uninformed idea: can it be done serially?

Musician 1 plays
100ms delay
Musician 2 hears Musician 1 and plays along
100ms delay
Musician 3 hears Musicians 1 and 2 playing simultaneously. Musician 3 plays along...

Not great for musician 1, but the last person in the chain is playing along with everyone else, lag-free from their perspective.

No back-and-forth, so still not the sought-after experience, but it would be a different flavour of wrong.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:32 AM on May 13


JamKazam supposedly does some sort of latency compensation via delays (not a software engineer, no idea how it works) that allows for more-or-less real-time playing together, but from everything I've read there are still a couple of caveats; 1) when they say "jam", they mean "jam", as in you basically need to be playing a relatively simple repetitive rhythm and chord progression with maybe one person soloing on top. More complex song structures don't work because of the continuously variable delays. And 2) it apparently does OK with slow to mid-tempo jams, but there's definitely a point where the speed of the music can outstrip any possibility of compensation. (Note: I have not actually tried this myself.)

There have been a few recent Asks on the topic - here's one that links to a couple others.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:43 AM on May 13


This was such beautiful writing. I missed 3 concerts last year that I had bought standing tickets for as I always had, but chronic illness meant that was no longer possible. I’ve got 2 (seated) concerts in July that I’m waiting for the cancellations, one of which is Lady Gaga’s rescheduled from 2 years ago, due to her fibromyalgia. So sad.
posted by ellieBOA at 8:45 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Others have said all the important things, but I will just say that I saw Foo Fighters at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland two summers ago (a much smaller venue then their usual arenas) and it was the best rock show I've ever seen in my life. Dave Grohl is the most energetic, generous, and engaging performer I've seen in any genre. His unabashed joy at what he gets to do for a living is infectious and ensures that every last person in the audience gets to share what he's feeling. They played for 3+ hours and every song was dynamite.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:00 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I am not even particularly a fan of his but I feel this myself lately. There is something communal and vital to live music, in an opposite but similar sense to the importance of the experience of nature. Personally, I can't imagine going back to live shows until there's a vaccine or an equivalent, which may take years. I've been to around 200 concerts over the years and it's pretty much been something I have tried to avoid thinking about, which has gotten harder as the postponements turn to cancellations and the refunds trickle in.

So many great venues can't survive this. You can tell from the increasingly desperate emails about gift cards and GoFundMes. It's not even totally clear that any pure music venues will be able to survive this without some sort of intervention unless it's already publicly owned like the Greek. Some might be able to basically mothball but most are just going to slip into disrepair and then face enormous bills just to get back to where it would be legal to open the doors, whenever it actually is legal to open the doors. I look forward to the eventual return of live music but I have no idea where it'll take place or what it'll look like.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:27 AM on May 13


While I liked the Atlantic piece and certainly appreciate Grohl's optimism, the harsh reality is this:

Medium.com: Our Industry isn’t coming back like yours is.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:31 AM on May 14


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