I don’t think I’m alone in feeling incredibly bleak about the future of live music at the moment.
Every day seems like another show cancelled, another venue on the brink of closure, and another obstacle or license being put in place against musicians. Live music, which once was my favourite thing, feels like a fairy-tale, and something I took for granted.
With live music feeling like a distant memory, and on pause for what is seeming like the long-term, societies like Imperial’s Live Music Society seem disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Social distancing rules mean that in person rehearsing is off, live music events are cancelled, and musicians are on an indefinite collaboration hiatus.
I think I’m going to have to rethink my pre-existing hesitations towards online events
Live Music Society has followed in the footsteps of many events by moving from live music to live-streamed, for the time being. I won’t lie, I have been incredible sceptical about online live-music events. Whilst it is more important than ever to support small venues and independent artists through remote shows, to me social-distanced and live-streamed events miss my favourite aspects of gigs, and just make me miss the real thing even more. Live-streamed events lack the £5 pint poured down your back, the elbow to the nose in a pit, and just how personal the experience of going to a gig is. I feel like a bad person admitting it, but I have avoided online gigs like the plague.
The friday before last (29th January) I went to Live Music Society’s Random Band Night, and I think I’m going to have to rethink my pre-existing hesitations towards online events. I’ve never been to Random Band Night before, or any of Live Music soc’s events, or even Metric, but the online event really made me regret that. The high calibre of musicians and performances were really impressive, let alone with a one-week deadline.
Genres ranged from pop, to jazz, to prog-metal to Britney Spears. Performances were mixed to a professional standard, with video accompaniment to match, featuring pigeons, pyrotechnics, and Tupperware drum kits.
Assigning the groups was similar to how the event would run in person – groups were assigned on genre (read: metal or not) and instrumentation. However, normally, Random Band Night groups would be assigned on the night and given an hour to practise before performing at Metric. People wouldn’t always bring their own instruments, so the first time they would play together would be on stage.
I spoke to a few people from the performances to see how they found it.
There was a difference in opinion between those who had and hadn’t participated in it before. Those that hadn’t said a week was pretty tight for putting together a polished cover with a video. Those that had, said a week was far too long (I guess compared to an hour, it’s a pretty generous amount of time). One thing in common was that everyone seemed to have a great time.
Talking to Jonathon
Felix: Hey! You were in the group who did the Bon Jovi cover right?
Jonathon: Yeah that was me!
F: Oh nice! It was super impressive. Have you done random band night before?
J: Thanks! Yeah I’ve done it twice before.
F: How was the online event compared to normal?
J: Pretty different. Usually we get assigned bands on the day and get like an hour or so to decide on a song and rehearse before playing, whereas this time we got a week to record something and edit it together, but it was still really fun!
F: Did you prefer having more time to practise? Or did it just feel completely different?
J: It was definitely nice having more time to practise and being able to record multiple times to get it right. Honestly it can be kinda stressful having to perform after not that much practice, but obviously there’s a certain magic to live music that you don’t get from a video.
F: Definitely, I’m really missing live music. How was it collaborating together online and not being able to rehearse altogether?
J: Definitely very different to normal but we managed to work things out by all recording to the same backing track. The person who edited the videos and mixed the audio together did a really good job.
F: Have you played with any of the people in your group before?
J: Nope, first time we’d met!
F: Any plans to jam together again?
J: We haven’t discussed it but I’d be open to it!
F: Thank you!
Talking to Lunzhi
Felix: Hey! You were in the group with the pyrotechnics video right? I loved that one, have you done random band night before?
Lunzhi: Thanks! I did the mixing on that track. I haven’t done Random Band Night before, I’m a fresher this year.
F: Oh nice! Have you played in bands before?
L: Actually not really. I’ve helped some friends here and there with their gigs every now and then throughout the years but other than those, I’ve just always been a bedroom guitarist.
F: So this was your first experience playing in a group?
L: Well I’ve had similar ones before, just kind of doing sessions. It’s only recently in lockdown that I found two other freshers at my accommodation to form a proper metal band. We have a single coming out soon. Proper brutal death metal, but still at a rough sort of demo stage.
F: Have you been able to rehearse in person or has it been put together over zoom etc.?
L: Online. Our way of song-writing is actually not so conventionally done in a ‘rehearsal’ or ‘jam’ style. We sort of come up with stuff, throw the tabs at each other and use softwares and DAWS to assist in writing.
F: So it works pretty well for being remote then? I guess that prepared you pretty well for the Live Music Soc event.
L: Yeah. My bandmates were actually also in the random band week event, but they were in a different group. They played Fade To Black.
F: Oh no way! I guess the event was a pretty good way to get experience playing with other people not in your band and their respective styles.
L: Yeah, totally. The other guys were also much older and experienced musicians, so it was inspiring and lots of fun to work with them.
F: Any plans to jam or work with them again?
L: We have actually talked about it and I think when schedules free up we are definitely down to do something again, considering we only had a week to put together something this fun and high quality.
F: How was just having a week to do it?
L: I wanted to learn and play it very tight so I spent a good amount of time on it for sure. I really enjoyed it and my schedule allowed for it, so I went all out. For the mixing I was trying out new things and learning along the way, so I ended up putting a decent amount of time into achieving something that sounded really awesome. Having to work under a time constraint for a deadline in itself is a fun challenge that I wouldn’t really get otherwise. Good practise I guess.
F: How did you navigate the rehearsing and recording process with lockdown?
L: We did it all completely remotely online. We didn’t even video call haha. We just quickly decided on the day the song we wanted to play, and each of us begun practicing. By Tuesday we were fully recorded and got started on the pyro video edit. I finalised the video mix on Wednesday and that was it! Luckily everyone was familiar with recording and working with production.
F: How did you pick what you were going to play?
L: When we signed up we put in our preferred genres and I reckon we all put metal/rock. We all happened to be fans of progressive metal. Naturally we ended up doing a Dream Theatre song. I did have a panic attack when I found out we were going to do it but luckily Strange Deja-Vu is one of the easier pieces John Petrucci wrote. I was lucky there wasn’t a Petrucci solo in there. God knows how long I would have to spend on mastering one.
F: Thanks so much for talking to me about this! Let me know when your band’s single comes out!
L: Thanks a lot!