The Return of Local Live Music; should I add a question mark?

“But I’m bidin’ my time

‘Cause that’s the kinda guy I’m

While other folks grow dizzy

I keep busy

Bidin’ my time,”

George Gershwin

It’s important, I think, not to get over-excited, but I understand and expect a major outbreak of momentary bipolar disorder from myself and many others when we look somewhere over the rainbow at the prospect of events restarting, and live music in particular.

How the next few months pan out will be crucial to this concept of returning to normality, and we all play the part of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2; Judgement Day, when she said, “the unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope.” Hereafter the bit about a Terminator learning the value of human life is inconsequential to our particular occasion, but maybe has some relevance. We have to hold it down, guys, we have to be like little Fonzies here, and as Samuel L Jackson will ask you, Yolanda, what’s Fonzie like?

If we charge this thing it could backfire. It was heart-breaking and annoying too, running through our event calendar deleting everything, and despite the concern I’m going to be a busy bee updating it when events actually start happening, I’m like George Gershwin, biding his time. This said, you should note month-to-month the event calendar is far from void, there’s lots of live streams, online events and popup kitchens to check out; do not abandon it. But, and this a big but, bigger than the butt of Rod Stewart and Jennifer Lopez’s lovechild, we should keep in mind the word of the day is possibilities, and nothing should be set in concrete yet.

Still the local rag seems more gung-ho than me, which is odd until you figure they’ve staff to pay, advertisers to appease and content must be attractive. As I write this, they announce the headline “Fulltone Festival will be back in town this summer!” as I’m sure you’ll all be happy to hear this news, planning to go ahead on the 28th and 29th August, as am I, but I worry for the word “will” in this piece of clickbait, because right now can we really say will?

Look, my ol’ mucker, I don’t want to pop your bubble of optimism, I’m just playing the realist. Tomorrow sees schools and higher education heading back out; how strict testing will be, given pupils will test themselves in some circumstances, the same pupils who created the user-name “reconnecting,” so teachers would think they’re having connection issues with their online class! The R-rating hinges on this moment and its success, ergo the rest of this so-called roadmap does.

The second part of this giant step, on the 29th March includes the use of outdoor swimming pools, for example, but pubs won’t reopen until step 2 on April 12th. How are fifty-plus bods dribbling into a swimming pool safer than a socially distanced pint in your local? There’s inconsistences and flaws, to be expected, the further the pitch extends, but the wording is all made up of “we hope,” and “the government will look to continue easing limits,” there is no “Will,” therefore no media outlet should be using the word, unless mass hysteria is what they want.

The COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 (Summary) on Gov.UK is quite clear, “in implementing this plan we will be guided by data, not dates, so that we do not risk a surge in infections that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. For that reason, all the dates in the roadmap are indicative and subject to change.” Yet bands are getting bookings, events are being arranged, money is being pumped into thin ice. The Victoria in Swindon is planning a comeback with Ion Maiden, Iron Maiden tribute on 14th May, but The Tuppenny aren’t announcing yet. Bradford-on-Avon’s Three Horseshoes haven’t added anything on Facebook until 7th August, when the brilliant Strange Folk are booked, whereas same band are the only thing to be listed at Devizes Southgate on 9th October.

But can you rely on the Fakebook as a source? Southgate landlady Deborah has been “quietly booking up bands,” with seventeen in the pipeline to date, starting from 22nd May. “This year,” she explained, “we’re concentrating almost entirely on just one gig per week. The earliest gigs will be outside with early evening start and finish times, but we hope to get back to our pre-COVID timings as soon as possible.”

The Long Street Blues Club state “there is light at the end of the tunnel,” aiming to restart their program on Saturday 18th September with the popular Billy Walton Band. This is brilliant news, but here, I believe is where the boundary lies, the smaller pub and club gigs. The idea of large-scale concerts and festivals, and upholding conditions are simply incalculable, for some.

Devizes Scooter Club have sadly cancelled their brilliant rally, as organiser Adam Ford said after making the decision in February, “even if it were allowed to proceed, we feel it will not be possible to host any event to the standard we would want to, and that attendees deserve.” There’s a similar feeling at Devizes CAMRA who have cancelled the Beer Festival. This is, sad but true, the exact logical response we should respect from those in the responsibility of organising events, well done to them both.

One should follow the lead of the Eavis family, experts in, quite literally, their field. If Glasto says no, then you, as an organiser should perhaps take heed. Meanwhile, Lydiard Park in Swindon is set for MFor 2021 is set as early as 31st July, and tickets are 50% sold. They remain adamant they’ve not the massive structure and organisation as Glasto, and will proceed with social distancing measures in operation. What I am questioning with these events still on the agenda, will we need proof of vaccination, as we’re a long way from vaccinating the country? Unless you imagine an evening with only over-70s going to watch Craig David, it’s a melon twister.

Talking with Kieran J Moore of Sheer Music, he stated, “the proof question hasn’t been answered by the Music Venue Trust yet, so there is no guidance or anything for the venues to base their decisions on. We can’t do gigs until May either, so still plenty of time for the working outs to begin.” Sheer has something in pipeline in Frome at the end of June, but isn’t really resurfacing until the highly anticipated Jon Gomm gig with support from The Lost Trades at Trowbridge’s Emmanuel’s Yard on the 15th October.

Satisfied that their safety measures conformed to the government regulations last Summer, the Southgate will do the same this time around. “Government guidelines have not yet been published,” Deborah said. “Unless we are required to do so, we have no intention whatsoever of  demanding proof of vaccination.”

Loz of Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts, who give us the unforgettable carnival, street festival and winter ales events, among others is looking forward to coming back “to help us make amazing things happen in the future.” She said, “I’ve spent every spare minute searching for and writing funding applications to ensure DOCA can relaunch at the end of this crazy blip in our history. I’m currently working on an Arts Council Cultural Recovery Bid; it’s a lot of work and I am supported by our fantastic Trustees whenever I have a question I stall on.”

But still, carnival in Devizes hangs in the ropes. But this is how it has to be, unfortunately. Believe me, I am adamant my next gig will not be when a kindly lady wheels her Bontempi organ into my care home to recite Bridge over Troubled Water, all I’m urging people to do is keep things in perspective and not raise their hopes, or more-so, let their guard down, just yet.


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