People are hungry for live music, and on Sunday I met up with Mike Nuttall, a music promoter who since lockdown restrictions were eased has been organising events in Manchester.
Since the start of July, he has organised 15 shows in Manchester at venues including The Rose and Monkey Hotel and the BlackJack Brewery.
The shows, under the brand of his promotions company Jezebel Music are mostly held in beer gardens which also poses a challenge with the precarious nature of Mancunian weather.
It seems however that the desire to be out and hear live music surpasses that of having the comfort of an indoor rainproof environment – the audience comes equipped with umbrellas.
He suspects that music venues around Manchester will be putting on frequent shows by March and April 2021, and bows his head in anticipation of the government restrictions that are being reintroduced which may restrict his ability to organise shows.
Sunday’s show took place at The Rose and Monkey Hotel, an event that was partly organised by Amnesty Acoustic, an organisation that runs live acoustic events to fundraise for Amnesty Manchester and other local Charites. All proceeds of this event however went to the local artists who performed on the night and have been struggling financially since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The set began at 4 pm, in 15 degrees Manchester heat, a slight breeze in the air. The tables were all set out socially distanced where all the attendees has pre-allocated seats.
On any one occasion, there were not more than 32 people in the garden at a time. Orders made by table service where three mask-wearing waiters tended to customers, bringing out the orders that had been text in. They took payments on card machines, a process which now means that they too lose out on tips.
I spoke to Sandra a filmmaker from Manchester who was at the event with her husband. She said that it was their first time in seven months at a music event. I could read that she was scanning the room, slowly trying to digest how events like this will now look.
Eight local artists played, ranging from singers, poets, and a cellist. Every act referred to how glad they were to see and be near ‘3D people.’ Is that what we now are 3D people? They all played a 15-minute set which equated to three songs or four poems and a little small talk.
By the third act, Sandra had put on her gloves and Chris Flynn sang the lyrics “killing time is killing me.”
Richard Lomax, a talented musician, stands promoting the sale of his latest vinyl. He hands me his card, Granfalloon is the name of his band – the card describes the name as ‘an absurd collection of human beings,’ influenced perhaps by American writer Kurt Vonnegut’s free-spirited movement on connection through non-connection in the 60’s.
Richard tells me of the ups and downs he went through during lockdown. He was lucky he said, he was able to pay his rent through the money he made from his music, a combination of running live steams and having a dedicated fan base who supported him.
He also started the ‘positive song project’ along with a friend, where they encourage people to write and submit a positive song every week, helping people move away from emotion detritus and project positive creativity. They are currently on week 10 with 324 songs submitted, so far connecting to artists from as far as Mexico and the US.
This was only Richard’s second performance since the pandemic altered his life and he said that the transition to performing live has been hard. He has struggled to contain his emotions. As much as he missed performing, the crowd he now looks out to has changed and this takes time to digest.
As the final act gets ready to play, I ask Sandra, who is now wearing a third layer of clothing, how she found the whole experience.
She spoke of being hesitant at first, looking around at the environment, feeling that it was different, both in terms of what she saw and how it was strange too to be seated outdoors with other people.
After a while, she said that she had forgotten about the conditions in which she sat and enjoyed the evening as any she would have pre – Covid-19.
With further restrictions being reintroduced it may be some time before people can once again resemble a crowd of what now seems like a thing of the past. The slow reintroduction of these events that Mike is setting up however offer a subtle taste of what life was and may once again be.