The world's first ever "socially distanced gig" took place this week in the UK and what a truly wonderful and depressing mixed bag it was. Headlined by Sam Fender, the gig was held at Newcastle's Virgin Money Unity Arena – the world's first socially distanced convert venue, apparently. Welcome to the new normal folks.
The show was the first of a series of socially-distanced concerts to be held at the arena, with UK acts Van Morrison, the Libertines, and Two Door Cinema Club all set to play in front of 2,500 fans, all spread out across the former horse track; everyone enjoying the show from their very own socially distanced pods! What a time to be alive.
Gig-goers were asked to follow social distancing regulations – mainly wear a mask and stay in your pod. Paths to the bathrooms were one-way, and food and drinks were available for order remotely; delivered straight to one of the 500 pods by staff.
You may be thinking: Thanks, I hate it. I know I was… maybe I still am. Honestly I still don't know how to feel. On one hand, it's cool that this will be keeping a bunch of people in jobs, and giving fans a chance to enjoy something as close to a proper big concert experience as we're gonna get anytime soon.
But on the other hand, how fucking depressing. I mean, look at it. Everyone's in lil teeny holding pens like farm animals being prepped for transport. Hey, at least no drunk idiots are all up in your space spilling beer on you, but then there's also no drunk idiots all up in your space to make friends with :(
One of the best parts about a seeing live music – and excuse me while I indulge my hippy side for a moment – is the collective consciousness we meld into; a whole sea of humans not just physically moving together, but spiritually; a temporary mass hypnosis sending each person in the crowd on their own inner journey, while simultaneously riding the wave of the collective concentrated energy of hundreds or even thousands of people around them – everyone experiencing their own mini version of the same spectrum of emotion. It's electric.
The catalyst of all that is proximity. It's hard to see how any of this occurs when everyone is in their own little socially-distanced pod, getting food and drinks delivered straight to you. Sure, you're seeing live music, but the essence of the whole thing is lost.
But what's the alternative? It's actually pretty sick that no matter what is thrown at us, humans can find a way to innovate and improvise and just make do. Sure the experience won't be the same, sure it's a bit weird, but weird is all we've got right now. Either we stick our nose up at it and let an entire industry slowly crumble before our very eyes, or, we get out there, make do with what we have, and support live music if and when we're lucky enough to get the chance.
So props to Sam Fender, Newcastle's Virgin Money Unity Arena, and anyone else who chooses to proactively attempt to keep the fire alive.
And hopefully, soon enough these socially-distanced gigs will just be shit your grandkids see in history books. Until then, it may not be perfect, but it's what we have.
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