Mark, My Words: the ‘new normal’ of corona-proof live music sounds like this reviewer’s dream

Drive-in gigs, 300-capacity shows, seated festivals? Music's post-corona world sounds right up columnist Mark Beaumont's street

We’ve officially hit stage 3.748271 on Boris Johnson’s five-stage COVID Alert System (or ‘meta-mild’ on its Nando’s spice chart equivalent) and his message is: ‘stay alert’. So, at the crack of dawn, staying resolutely alert for corona ambush and wielding a cattle-prod with a nail through the end to control the virus, I conga’d my arse out of incarceration, straight to the nearest park to play as much sport with my family as I like – until I get slapped with an increased fine for doing so.

There, alongside my potentially infectious friends and neighbours, I basked in the invigorating spray of the likely onrushing second wave and toasted the hearty “successes” of Johnson’s coronavirus plan, which has successfully catapulted us to the top of the European death league – two World Wars, one World Cup and one World Cough!

Meanwhile, across Europe, there’s actual light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. So while 82 per cent of the UK’s grassroots music venues remain at risk of closure from corona, a ‘new normal’ is fast approaching elsewhere.

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Denmark has already begun putting on drive-in gigs. In Spain, they hope to introduce seated outdoor shows of up to 200 and 30-capacity indoor shows. As I predicted back in March, arena bands are considering 10-day residencies at club venues, playing multiple shows throughout the afternoon and evening to revolving maximum quarantine capacity crowds. There’s even talk of running limited capacity festivals in the not-too-distant future, although I’m with Isle Of Wight organiser John Giddings on how “ludicrous” this is. I’ve been at plenty of under-attended festivals and two things happen: 1) people gravitate to the barrier anyway and 2) the festival goes bust.

Considering most of the rest of the suggestions, though, I’m looking forward to music’s new normal. Not only would these ideas limit the chances of gig-going contagion, they’d eradicate a lot of the most annoying niggles for the four-gigs-a-week diehard such as myself.

If you’re two metres minimum away, I’m far less likely to chew through my own cheek with anger when the moron you’ve dragged along, who’d never heard of the band before last Tuesday, starts loudly informing you about the development of their latest hemorrhoid during my favourite ballad. As much as I appreciate the notion of a gig as a full night out, starting with a refined appraisal of the support act and culminating in a drunken blub along to ‘Champagne Supernova’, a failed attempt to pull the merch person and a kebab vomit down your brand new bootleg band T-shirt, I’ve long yearned for the option to watch a show that finishes by 8.30pm so I can get home for Taskmaster.

If all of these options come with compulsory masks too, that’s a Beaumont bonus; maybe having much of my face covered might cut down on people harassing me at the back of Briton Academy for not liking ‘Kid A’ 20 years ago.

The prospect that most excites me, though, is that of the drive-in gig. Besides the embarrassment of your musician mate definitely knowing you’ve snuck out of their set early (there’s no such thing as a ‘surreptitious’ three-point turn), the idea of having fine wines ferried to our seated isolation pods has been every music reviewer’s fantasy since we first had a pot of Reading piss land on our Metallica notes.

The thrill of live music has so much to do with the raucous, sweaty and deranged atmosphere, the sense of communal dementia and the being followed by the stench of your fellow fanatic for days afterwards. But coronavirus gigs sound like the sort of ‘VIP experience’ that banking dicks pay hundreds of pounds extra for in order to try to shag their secretaries. Every gig will be one big golden circle, with added table service. So bring on music’s new normal – I’m ready for the best of times in the worst of times.

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