It’s been over six months since live music was a regular occurrence in our lives; a long, long six months that have left many wondering whether they’ll ever witness a band playing live on a stage again, rather than through a stream. The concept of real-life gigs has become somewhat mythologised – gig-goers have been lamenting on shows and festivals of days gone by, and with such instability surrounding us right now, it’s entirely feasible for many to fear that live music as we know it is doomed.
The impact COVID has had on the live industry is immeasurable. Venues, artists and the vast number of workers in the live sector have been forced to wonder whether the industry will be able to get back on its feet at any point in the near future. Even with updated guidelines for socially-distanced events, many venues simply can’t afford to put on shows with such limited numbers in attendance and such heavy restrictions in place. One venue that has been able to navigate the strange world of post-lockdown gigging, however, is Walthamstow’s Signature Brew, who hosted Brighton rockers The Wytches this week for two sold-out, socially-distanced shows. And good grief, it was truly glorious.
The industrial park in which Signature Brew sits is a far cry from the Insta-worthy London venues many of us are used to, but the slightly average setting and the persistent rain did little to dampen the excitement of finally witnessing live music again. Before entry, security gave us a rundown of the rules we’d have to adhere to, immediately reassuring us that the venue was doing all that was possible to keep us safe.
There’s an air of excitement and anticipation wafting around the brewery, if not a little trepidation, as we take to our seats at a table (strictly two metres from others). Many of the sixty attendees, including us, have no idea what to expect. Will it be just like we remembered it? Will it be odd not standing up and dancing? Will it all just be a little bit weird? But as soon as The Wytches take to the stage, it’s clear that we had nothing to worry about.
The band storm through their hour-long set as though they’d never had a break. Fan favourites from Annabel Dream Reader and All Your Happy Life go down a treat, mixed in with a few tracks from upcoming album Three Mile Ditch. Whilst it’s a world away from the raucous, rowdy, sweaty gigs that The Wytches are more familiar with playing, there’s certainly a charm in this new setup. Maybe we’re just getting old, but I had no complaints tapping my toes and nodding my head rather than being thrown around in a mosh pit, and being able to enjoy a pint without it being knocked out of my hand.
As the four-piece smashed through hit after hit, I couldn’t help but look around at the (socially distanced) crowd. It was clear that everyone was enthralled; there were grins aplenty as heads nodded in unison, everyone on the same high of finally seeing live music again after so long. Notably, I only saw phones raised to film or take photos a handful of times in the whole hour, a true testament to the excitement surrounding the gig – everyone’s eyes were glued only on the band, taking in every moment.
If there was anything to take away from last night’s gig, it’s that I (and I’m sure everyone else in that room) will never, ever take live music for granted again. Signature Brew’s events have given the live industry a glimmer of hope – whilst not every venue can manage it, it’s clear that gigs in the New Normal are not just feasible, but they can be bloody brilliant. Live music really does bring people together, and sitting in a room full of people watching The Wytches play was one of the most joyful moments of the last six months. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that’s for sure.