The Coronavirus Quarantine Is An Opportunity For Bands To Try New Things
In the wake of the coronavirus quarantine and travel bans around the globe, hardcore brutalists Code Orange did something ballsy: played to an empty room. When the record release show for their new album Underneath was canceled, the Pittsburgh punishers performed at their intended venue The Roxian and livestreamed the show via video platform Twitch. The band even rebranded the show, including animation snippets in the stream and titling their performance Last Ones Left, seemingly in acknowledgment of the widespread postponements and cancelations going on around the world.
Code Orange’s digital record-release show illustrates an interesting prospect: while it’s a bummer, the coronavirus quarantine is presenting new challenges – and new opportunities – to those who make their livelihoods off of music. And with the global pandemic showing how fragile well-laid tour and festival plans can be, it’s birthing a creative environment where bands can come up with clever alternatives to the tried-and-true live show.
Let’s make something clear: the live rock show will never die. Though cynics often claim that rock is dead and pine for an era that never truly existed, the truth is that gigs will be alive and well long after anyone reading this will be. The outfits may change, the music may get noisier, and the beer will somehow get more expensive – but even in thousands of years, when the world is a Mad Max-esque wasteland, teenage barbarians will still ride their dune buggies to that one hill where a bunch of dudes are banging pieces of bone together in rhythm (the term scalper, it should be noted, will mean something very different at that point in history).
But the beauty of the modern day is that there are alternatives. Home recording technology allows any artist to create and release on-the-spot new material in the blink of an eye, while online streaming platforms mean that they can both communicate with fans and upload tons of classic footage and audio. With traditional touring out of the picture, musicians and labels finally have the time to utilise the many digital outlets that can take their visibility to the next level. Sure, a livestream will never fully replace the power of seeing a rock band perform right in front of you, but learning how to host and market one is a good skill for any musician to have.
Not only that, but isolation can breed creativity. Tours are long and exhausting, and we’ve all watched at least one of our favorite artists lose some of their originality due to their energy-sapping life on the road. It’s those moments at home – making meals, taking showers and doing laundry – that often inspire us the most (alternatively, they can be so fucking boring that finally getting to work on that new song will look pleasant by comparison). Given how many punk and metal musicians are self-described workaholics, this forced staycation mixed with the sheer weirdness of what’s going on could result in some amazing new material bubbling to the surface.
Code Orange aren’t alone in this: Yungblud recently played a remote concert for his fans. Trivium, whose frontman Matt Heafy is known as a longtime Twitch user, will upload over 90 of their live shows to the platform to give fans material for biding their time. Rather than cancel it outright, Irish punks Dropkick Murphys are playing their infamously wild St. Patrick’s Day show via online stream. We’re not a week into self-isolation and already artists are coming up with creative ways to get their artistic vision out there to audiences who are stuck inside.
This situation obviously isn’t easy for our favorite musicians. In fact, it sucks. And as fans, it’s up to us to help out our favorite bands. But the money we save not going to gigs and paying for a night’s food and drink can buy us quite a bit of merch and music, and while that expenditure might not feel as vital as the live arena does, it’s still a way to make sure the people who’ve entertained us for so long can pay their rent.
It’s easy to feel like we’re running in place during this weird period, and learning new technology platforms is always an unconquerable pain in the ass for the first few days. But in a strange and unstable way, this situation creates as many opportunities as it curbs. The live shows will return someday, along with the chance to fall back into the typical routine of playing live between recordings. This situation is rare and bizarre – let’s meet it head-on every way we can.
Of course, if you need something to watch to pass the time, our K! Pit videos, featuring huge bands in tiny venues full of diehard fans, are available now:
Watch the video for Salem’s new single Destroy Me, taken from their upcoming self-titled debut EP.
Vans are offering one new band a monumental kickstart with their new Musicians Wanted competition. Get on it!