Updated: Feb 24
MadMax is a DJ and founder of Tribe Of Baloo & co-founder of Love Carnival
The LPS blog is back and this week we’re delighted to introduce a piece from our good friend and London Promoters’ Society attendee, Mad Max, purveyor of the tribe of baloo/love carnival radio show. We’ll let him do the talking…
This pandemic has hit all walks of life and shows no signs of going anywhere soon. A whole year of festivals and events are postponed, with no one knowing when they will start up again and what they’ll be like in the “new normal”. How have artists and promoters had to adapt and perform from the intimate space of their living rooms in this crazy climate? How do you perform to a crowd you can’t see?
As humans we are social creatures and are desperately missing interaction. For music events, this is massively important and makes or breaks a gig. Lets face it, the idea of performing at a socially distanced event is not appealing.
The unique feeling created by people coming together and enjoying a performance results in a powerful experience hard for many of us to forget or replace. Performing to a packed out room is what we all want to do and seeing a group of people separated by empty spaces is disheartening. Add in the wearing of face masks, (covering peoples expressions which DJs and bands thrive off) and it doesn’t look good. Gigs are about atmosphere, emotions and creating unforgettable memories. Can we create new ways to feel these emotions in these unprecedented times? Before this corona crisis, the music scene in UK was suffering and had been for over 10 years. Music, social and arts venues have been closing down left, right and centre, making way for more luxury flats. It’s slowly killing the music scene that once was. We all know the story, the flats pop up out of nowhere and within weeks of them being occupied, noise complaints come flushing in and that lovely pub or music venue that has been around for decades is forced to adapt, or in most cases, close.
People these days sadly practice a zero tolerance policy to any kind of noise disturbance. Often, the complaints come from the same people who decide they want to live in the heart of an ‘artistic’ and ‘cultural’ area, paying the constantly rising rents, pushing out the locals and what made that area appealing in the first place.
Corona will leave behind empty venues and buildings across the country – the corporate vultures are looming, salivating at the prospect of lucrative new building contracts that will give nothing back to the community. Can some of these lost spaces instead be transformed into community centres and creative hubs and if so, how can we compete with the power of property developers?
London is desperately hanging onto it’s 60’s image of celebrating new cultures, exciting new music, movements and identity but that was then, for how long can it keep this image? Bob Marley, The Stones, Hendrix and many others gravitated there for the energy, the rawness of venues and the eclectic melting pot of artists in the underground scene. Would any of them come there now? It’s not just London, it’s a national crisis. Gone are the days of Manchesters Hacienda, which was well ahead of it’s time in more ways than one. The Cavern Club in Liverpool was one of the most famous live music venues in the world due to The Beatles playing there nearly 300 times. Birmingham’s Custard Factory and The Rainbow have seen brilliant events. This list goes on from city to city and these iconic venues are sadly now all but memories.
Thanks to the pandemic, our venues face new problems and again are struggling for survival. Government support for the arts has taken months to surface and it is still unclear how independent venues will benefit from that support. For some venues like the Deaf Institute and Gorilla in Manchester the support seems to have come too late.
Why is our Government so slow to support the arts? Surely they know how important it is for the economy? London Mayor Sadiq Khan said a few years ago that if we don’t protect our venues young people will keep choosing to relocate to cities like Berlin and Barcelona as they provide environments with a rawness for artists and clubbers to thrive in, at a fraction of the living costs.
This lead to the much-needed appointment of Amy Lamé as Night Czar in 2016, tasked with ensuring London thrives as a 24-hour city. Amy’s role involved championing London’s nightlife both in the UK and internationally; including safeguarding venues across the city but very little seems to have improved since.
There is now a petition to remove Amy Lamé as Night Czar, and have the role to be re-evaluated. The petition states: “Amy’s response to Covid-19 has been extremely disappointing, and has not inspired any confidence in why she receives a salary of £83,169. There has been very little press or media coverage featuring her, at a time that our Industry really needs vocal, visible and powerful leaders. The role is a missed opportunity to unite the members of various industry organisations in London; such as the NTIA, AFEM, UK Music, Music Venues Trust, Face The Music, Arts Council England and many more.”
Musicians and DJs have not stopped making content, in fact, they have been making more than usual and are sharing it online, often without payment. At the heart of lockdown, live streams and zoom parties became the zenith of entertainment, the new ‘going out out’ as housemates topped up their G&T’s dancing around in their kitchens and living rooms. From a DJ perspective, many, including myself found the lockdown encouraged us to utilize this new way of performing through live streaming, creating regular content to engage with fans and broaden our online reach beyond our geographical location. It’s also been a positive, much needed boost of energy as social interaction has been so limited but is the novelty wearing off?
Promoters and venues have had to crowd fund and get creative in order to survive. Once again, we the people must save the day, having to dip into our pockets and help to save venues. Brixton’s favourite venue Hootananny is a good example of how people came together to raise over £18K with their fundraiser and virtual festival weekend. I caught up with Max Golfar, (Hootananny Event Manager/Swing & Bass) and Cal Jader (Movimientos) and asked them how they have had to adapt and survive in these strange times:
Max Golfar: It has been a challenge and a real learning curve, but one that has been necessary in order to stay in front of our audiences and to stay ‘relevant’. I think this online shift has also opened up alternative networking opportunities that might not have presented themselves before. For me I feel that this has been a great time to reach out to other people in the music and events industry. We have had to get creative to maintain working relationships and to create new contacts. Despite being forced apart, the situation has actually created a sense of togetherness and community in a different and somewhat strange way…
Cal Jader: “Because Movimientos is generally very active with club nights and live events it would have been weird to stop completely so keeping our online presence has been important – streaming, recorded sets, online interviews all things we’ve never really done before so it’s been a period of learning and cultivating new and existing partnerships. Whilst I feel there was a saturation point for live stream DJ sets during the lockdown I think our audience are always hungry for more DJ sets so it made sense to start a series of mixes on our Soundcloud and Mixcloud pages (called Sanctuary) from DJs we’d hosted in the past or ones whom wouldn’t normally have the chance to book, which has been really exciting and has been received well.
We’ve also been working on a few releases on the label front which is something I hadn’t had time to focus on before this happened… some exciting stuff coming soon! I then asked how they see things being different as we move forward:
Max Golfar: The longer term changes I expect will be seen in how contracts are made between bookers & artists. I think we saw a big example of this with the controversial Live Nation contracts that were in the news recently.
Cal Jader: It’s really hard to predict how audiences will react and I suppose it partly depends on the response of the government as to how safe people feel going out (so I’m not too confident!). It also depends how long the independent venues can survive the current situation. Whatever happens I’m confident event producers will find new ways to make events and club nights interesting, challenging circumstances have always led to creative actions and innovations in culture. (You could say club culture itself was partly shaped by the Thatcher’s aggression toward the traveller community and free party scene). The underground free party scene seems to be making a resurgence, these days there are many more laws preventing gatherings and free parties, with Covid bringing a whole heap of new ‘temporary’ laws that will stick around for who knows how long but that’s not stopping people. Rebellion of the people is happening because of the love of music and of each other but we need to work together and do away with the blame culture. Rather than join and blame our shambolic government we continue to be divided on so many thing, from Brexit to BLM, from protests to face masks, I believe this is one of our greatest challenges.
Out of these difficult times will hopefully flow the creativity and ideas needed to take things into a new direction. Political music and movements are a direct reaction to the environment in which they are made.
It’s always been this way, Berlin’s music scene was unified post war after the fall of the wall. “In the ‘80s we believed in a so-called “no future generation”— Berlin was a Mecca for outsiders, punks and different-thinking people. Early ‘80s German punk and new wave music was becoming very strong — it was the first time innovative experimental music was in the spotlight with German lyrics. The music scene was very radical at that time. Lots of people in Berlin weren’t fitting into society and created their own world. “Techno music in Berlin was political and totally against the system. Most places or clubs had no license or any contract, so it was all illegal — everybody could do it with a sound-system and some DJs. (DJ Hell)
The same happened in the 70’s where the explosion of punk rock became the voice of a generation, reflecting its’ political stance. Punk was a response to the rise of the National Front, suppression of women and broken race relations, it was anti-fascist and anti-state. “Set against a backdrop of a three-day week and the winter of discontent, homegrown protest music began to flourish like never before, giving a voice to a young disenfranchised audience. Among its earliest proponents were The Clash, whose debut album bristled with songs of urban blight and racial disharmony.” (Chris Heard)
Whatever happens, it is clear that we need change and this pandemic may just be the tipping point that we so desperately need…
Written by Max Chambers aka Mad Max (Tribe Of Baloo)
Sources: https://mixmag.net/feature/30-years-since-the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall-anarchic-techno-scene http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/3682281.stm