Music to your ears … socially distanced gig ideas.
Illustration: Andrew Rae/The Guardian
Socially distanced indoor gigs? Financially unviable. Arenas with individual podiums? Vulnerable to local lockdowns. Acoustic sets in Camden Market? Infested with Newton Faulkner. The music industry is still struggling to find feasible ways to perform in 2020, so when Idles recently blue-skied the idea of playing to an audience in individual Zorb balls, imagining that their fanbase would happily roll around uncontrollably in padded bags of loose Stella for an hour, they displayed exactly the kind of irrational logic we need to save British music. In the spirit of which: if money, logistics and sense were no object, how might we rescue pandemic gigging?
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Since recycled airflow can aid transmission, let’s whip that virus clean out of the gig – upwards – by playing it while plummeting to the ground at 120mph. A bit like David Blaine’s Ascension, but good. Yes, there might be issues in getting an artist, an audience of hundreds and several tonnes of amplification equipment to the very edge of the atmosphere so that they could freefall for long enough to play Venice Bitch – but look, talk to the technical people, we’re the ideas guys.
Get your Phil … Phillip Schofield, host of ITV’s The Cube. Photograph: Matt Frost/ITV
Essentially a massive cuboid sneeze-guard, the plastiglass containment chamber of ITV gameshow The Cube is basically a lockdown bubble in microcosm. With your family and friends kept at a distance, you’re paid to stay in it as long as possible, becoming so obsessive about bouncing things into a bin that time just randomly stops, and every now and then a stern voice in your head reminds you that you’re a loser and your remaining life is ebbing away. It already has a dot matrix floor for visuals, so when the show returns to TV later this year why not ditch the stupid ball games and put bands on in it, with the audience pressed safely against the outside of the glass wearing those flip-down full-face masks that the contestants put on to make stepping over a stick more heart-in-mouth. Even someone with the lung power of Brian Blessed couldn’t sneeze a Covid microbe through one of those buggers.
Obviously the safest form of pandemic gigging would be in space, but only Grimes (via Elon Musk) has the resources at hand to do that. The next best thing, then, is the deep-sea gig: hop on a submarine shuttle service from Milton Keynes Central and get transported to the depths of the North Sea to watch a show with the band and audience safely encased in their very own diving suits. Yes, it’s tough to mosh in iron shoes and things might get troublesome if a pod of humpback whales descend on Florence Welch, but who’d be the best band to watch? Phish, right! Because you wouldn’t be able to hear a single note of it.
Claws for concern … Alt-J. Photograph: Mads Perch
Big cat enclosures
Zoo attendances are down, so let’s fund our most treasured animal prisons by staging Covid-safe concerts in the country’s glassed-off tiger enclosures. Imagine the added entertainment value. Alt-J trying to get through a recognisable Breezeblocks in the company of a 300lb predator. Lady Gaga wishing she hadn’t defrosted the meat dress for the occasion. It would tighten up the more indulgent sets pretty sharpish, too, as Dave Grohl realises that his umpteenth extended blues breakdown might not be worth losing a leg for. And who wouldn’t pay good money to watch Sleaford Mods slowly backing away from stalking maneaters whispering their angrier bits as gently as possible?
This one has definitely got legs. Assorted His Holinesses have been doing solo gigs from the back of bombproof golf buggies for decades; they’re easy to fit with external speaker systems and there is a strong likelihood they qualify for both universal free parking and a congestion charge discount. So they’re a convenient, safe and budget-friendly way for solo acts to tour, playing to blocks of flats, Kent lorry queues and, if you’re Ian Brown, the odd anti-lockdown rally. Best grab one while you can, though, before Kanye West buys up a whole fleet for his PontYeff tour.
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