Ever since the coronavirus pandemic has forced artists to cancel or reschedule tour and venues to close, fans have been waiting for the return of live music. Virtually held festivals and shows were a first step back to the entertainment industry, followed by drive-in concerts. But now the first socially distanced indoor gig has finally happened. On Wednesday, July 28, Frank Turner has played a show in London’s Clapham Grand, which fits a capacity of 1,250. But with social distancing rules still applying, the crowd only featured 200 people – less than 20% of the usual capacity.
The event was supported by the UK government as a trial run for safety measures. Attendees were temperature-checked before they got filed in at intervals. Queuing at the bar was not allowed, instead drinks could be ordered to tables that were spread across the room.
Obviously, there weren’t any moshpits, and as dancing and singing along was strictly off limits, the audience showed their excitement by clapping politely instead of cheering.
Show 2499, @TheGrandClapham – the first proper gig in over 4 months. It was a strange, emotional evening, and I’m planning a proper write up, but damn it feels good to post a real show picture again.
(Joined onstage by cardboard cutouts of people who don’t make much noise…) pic.twitter.com/yOVvtqndF1
— Frank Turner (@frankturner) July 29, 2020
Turner himself was super excited to get back to perform in front of a live audience, even if it was just for one night (for now). “Ever since lockdown put a stop to live performances, like most people I’ve been waiting for that glorious day when we’d get back to a ‘normal’ gig again. Today is not that day — we’re facing a serious and unprecedented global pandemic. But both I and my friends at the Clapham Grand are keen to work with the Government to work out how we get closer to that moment, so, at their request, we’re putting together a pilot show to see how live music can move forward. It feels like it’s a small step in the right direction for me and my industry”, the singer said before the show.
“When lockdown happened, I lost my job for a time, I lost my identity”, he told last night’s crowd. Clapham Grand is one of the oldest and biggest independent venues, so manager Ally Wolf was really excited to welcome guests and staff back. However, he warned that this model of live concerts isn’t a financially viable model for most venues, especially for the smaller ones. “It can’t be the future for live music, it can’t be the future for venues”, he said.