Live music slowly coming back to life

Spending time without friends, not going out to favorite places, and not enjoying life to the fullest. Not only that, people were missing during the pandemic: playing music live had to stop. After spending a long time within the four walls and listening to performers only on electronic devices, the sun is slowly starting to come out, and concerts are on the way. 

It’s already been 15 months (not that I’m counting). All the music shows were cancelled when corona had hit. That wasn’t easy for the artists, but definitely, it hasn’t been easier for the fans. Waiting for the concerts even for years, buying the tickets in advance (sometimes with a bit of good luck because there are too many willing people to go to the concert), and being in a live show is something that makes music fans alive.

“As a young adult and volunteer, I really missed going to concerts and live events in the past year and a half. Few times I even caught myself daydreaming about crowded and loud area, I go to the toilet and after that I can’t found my friends. Classic scenario”, says Maria, who also is a volunteer in some music events. As she is saying, it took her a pandemic to realize that organizing these things isn’t just helping her grow as a person and build team-working skills. Still, also it feels good because of helping the community and making everyone feel good during the concert.

Fans were in kind of better position than artists – they didn’t lose a job and didn’t have to come up with other solutions to earn money (at least for that part of their life). Of course, money wasn’t the only thing that artists lost during the lockdown.

“Before the pandemic, we were throwing gigs, and having so much fun, and it never felt like work. When it stopped, it was devastating: the fact that you can’t perform live for this huge period of time”, shares Behar, a musician. The worst is that many events are not covered by insurance; so smaller agencies in particular are threatened with bankruptcy. To recompensate losses, musicians started livestreaming events that do not require heavy productions and can be easily streamed from an empty room. Even though they are high volume for the audience, it generates low incomes for creators. Obviously, they don’t give the same feeling as the live concerts.

A growing number of vaccinated people are showing light at the end of the tunnel. The biggest festivals are scheduling the dates in the next year. Some artists have already sold the tickets for this year. But mostly, there is an opportunity for musicians who can perform in front of a smaller audience. Srdjan Vucic, a musician in one of the local bands, shares his thoughts about live music being back in Skopje.

“Playing music live is not my main job. I don’t play that much, but still, I missed the feeling when you play live in front of the audience. Some people do it 3-4 times a week. When corona had hit, it was bad for me, but I think not as bad as for other people. After these several weeks, people seem to have more energy. Maybe they even appreciate it more because they didn’t have a chance to attend these kinds of events for a long time.”

Srdjan agrees that the atmosphere is different when there is live music. During his few years in Belgium, it was much different from the music scene in Macedonia. There were more jam sessions, but still: it was live music. And as he is saying, having that: not only playing in that field but to be part of a crowd is an unforgettable feeling.

Some artists already had a chance to perform live. Darko Jovanov and Jasna Trpkova came back to the scene. So it wasn’t an easy time for them either during coronavirus. But also, it made them realize some things that they didn’t expect before.

“I did find several novel sparks. It suddenly felt like I could use the break to become more intimate with my performance blueprint. It became clear what parts are long overdue and what hidden flames I’d like to ignite more in future times. I also realized that when fully booked, we all fall in the trap of routine and feel less intrigued to shake things up. The silence was quite the bridge I needed for connecting some new dots in my sonic consolation”, shares Jasna.

They used that time to prepare new music material to share with the audience later. Darko says: “In that time, we’ve made an entire album that’s now in the process of being recorded. With the gigs being back, we can use the cash flow to finance the album and make something we’re both proud of.”

For the past year and a half, he’s been at home writing and composing music with his girlfriend. To perform that music live is something he has waited for a long time. His girlfriend, Jasna, shares: “What mostly stirred my pot of anticipation was the opportunity to try out some new performance spices and see how they taste in my audience’s hungry mouths.“

What’s in store for the future? Artists are not sure that what has returned will stay forever. Duo Jazzna Dares is being rather realistic than optimistic. “I am quite unsure. My avoidance of all kinds of media that draw power from fearmongering and doom makes me optimistic. My inner sceptic bets her bottom dollar things will turn out for the worse. So, I’m somewhere in the middle. Feels good there, with no great expectations, no anxious predictions.“

They are sure that after long periods of social isolation, everyone wants to be with people, go to parties, dance, and have fun again. Some may be more conscious than others, but in general, putting fate in large groups that they will do what’s right is slightly foolish. That’s why pubs, bars, nightclubs, and other cultural venues need to maintain the guidelines to ensure that we can all put this whole pandemic thing behind us once and for all as soon as possible.

Most artists can agree with that. Bona Dea is a multilingual Macedonian band that plays a little of everything. Even though pandemic time wasn’t easy, they’ve never stopped playing. On the contrary, they started performing online and discovering new forms of expression. As they are saying: “where there’s a will, there’s a way.“

During the lockdown, Bona Dea was performing at home through videos like many other musicians. It was very different from live concerts, but it helped them express their creativity and continue what they love. Even though they were productive in the worst time for artists, the loosening of the restrictions gives them hope.

“Being able to perform again is a liberating and amazing feeling. Music, and every form of art in general, is a powerful remedy. It guided us through this difficult period. Now, more than ever, music performances will help us to reconnect and enjoy ourselves. Stay tuned for our next concert. Bona is coming back in town”, they share.

The music industry lost a lot during the pandemic. Some artists had to change their profession for a while to reach their music dreams still. However, the hope and joy of returning remained in many of them. Maybe this time it won’t go away.  

Anna Marek



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