How to Put on a Virtual Gig

When lockdown started, we lost a precious part of the global music scene: live gigs. Gone are the days of expensive drinks and the strong sense of community when all of the fans scream in unison. The aggressive intimacy of mosh pits seem unthinkable from where we are today. Livestream gigs have become the norm, a necessity for independent artists who rely on live shows for income, but how can they put on a show that captures the feeling of a crowd while we’re all stuck in our homes?

There are a few ways to go about it. When Nick Cave announced the intriguing Idiot Prayer: Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace, it seemed like the perfect atmosphere for a Nick Cave concert at this time. It was later revealed to be a pre-recorded set from the singer, as it says in the title, alone, with a piano in the iconic London venue Alexandra Palace.

It was a legendary performance, stripping back some of his greatest song to the basic elements of singer and piano, and it felt more like an extended music video than a concert. That’s not a criticism; it was the enchanting performance we’ve come to expect from Nick Cave, but for £16, there was something missing. I fully believe that we should be paying artists for their livestreams – especially those which have been as expertly filmed as Idiot Prayer – but there was no way of accessing the footage after the stream, which would have made a difference to the experience.

Dublin’s favourite rock band, Fontaines D.C, managed to capture the feeling of audience solidarity and a sense of electric urgency in their virtual gig which premiered on YouTube a few days after the release of their second album, A Hero’s Death. It was another pre-recorded performance, this time at The Montrose in Dublin, but it had the added bonus that the band were answer fan questions and interacting with the audience in a simultaneous livechat feature.

While Nick Cave’s performance was paralyzingly hypnotic, Fontaines D.C had the energy of a fantastic performance alongside the adrenaline rush of the audience interacting with each other and even with the band themselves. Both have their merits, depending on what you enjoy the most about live music, but Fontaines D.C stole the most hearts that night. Fans left the concert (or more accurately, closed the tab) with a feeling as close to that of leaving a venue as we can get right now, albeit with less ringing in their ears.

These have been two of the biggest alternative livestream gigs in the last few months and you can take different advice from each of them. Performance is key – the southern gothic theatricality of Nick Cave will never fail – but a sense of community among the fans rules supreme. We need to be able to communicate with each other alongside the music that we love until we can get back in a pit again.

Image via Canva.

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