The Achievers: Life in Lockdown Part V

A live gig. At last!

We played a gig! Yes, an actual gig – a live, in the flesh gig, with a paying audience in the same room, buying drinks and applauding and stuff! At the time it felt like a rare achievement, like unlocking a hidden character in a computer game. But now, stuck in the sadly familiar funk of another lockdown, it feels positively miraculous.

The Subscription Rooms, in our hometown of Stroud, is a cool and ambitious multi-arts venue – a huge historic building with a bunch of rooms, a killer sound-system, and a loyal audience of local music lovers. They'd been running a series of live streams from their ballroom on a square, centrally located stage nestled in the heart of an immersive, interactive light exhibition. Jack Wimperis, the incredible artist behind the exhibition, was supposed to have mounted his work on the peak of Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage last summer, but like the rest of us he had to re-think. So, we attacked it and threw ourselves at putting on the best show we could, and I hope we delivered for an audience that was clearly desperate for that magical shared experience only a live gig can offer. We wanted to do right by ourselves of course, but we also felt we had a responsibility to the people that had come out in search of culture, community and, let's face it, a tipsy and rare cavort outside the confines of their own four-walls!

A land without music

I won't prattle on too much about how the gig made me feel. Doing so would be like complaining to a friend about how you didn't sleep very well, only for them to reply with a long story about how they passed out as soon as their big, smug head hit the pillow. We feel lucky to have had the opportunity when we did because not long after we walked off the stage, the country walked straight into another seemingly indefinite period of music-less-ness.

You know that of course, because you're experiencing it with us too – unless you're reading this in Micronesia or The Pitcairn Islands, in which case – good luck and stay put.

As a professional band we can still legally get together to rehearse and write. It's our work and we can't do it from home – but we took the decision this week to let this wave of the pandemic break and stay away from each other. It’s going to push our album's progress back a few months and it might even mean we'll have to recalibrate our entire plan, but I'd rather deal with that than risk a loved one or a stranger having to deal with getting ill.

That brief flirtation with performing back in December was a tease – but luckily the whole thing is preserved on tape. The stream was soon converted to broadcast quality and hosted on Vimeo. I've watched it about 37 times and since had a haircut. The film crew did an amazing job – they anticipated movements in the music that sometimes even caught us out. We did our best to be interesting, but the crew and sound engineer made it a truly dynamic experience for everyone tuning in from home. You can see our whole gig right here!

An evening with The Achievers from The Sub Rooms on Vimeo.

Like a captain out at sea

My daughter took charge of our merchandise desk on the night, she insisted, and as people left the building I dished out the 11% commission she'd very shrewdly negotiated. An audience member approached me – she said it'd been a great night, but she wanted to thank me because the gig had had a profound effect on her husband. It had brought him to tears because he was experiencing something so fundamentally important to him. Watching live music is a part of his identity – something that makes his heart sing and something that he had been deprived of for so long. People like him are being somewhat overlooked in all this, there's an emphasis on us musicians and the impact on our careers and livelihoods, fair enough, but we mustn't forget about live music fans – the people most of us create our art to share with.

Live music will return and musicians, fans and crew will rejoice. But unlike when I'm forced to shuffle closely past someone on the canal toe-path – I'm not holding my breath. I'm not sure how to set my expectations but I'm looking to Springtime - like a sea-captain might survey the horizon for land, assuming it's out there somewhere and hoping he’s heading in the right direction.