by Jack Coleman

2020 has been a year of cancelled plans. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has derailed the vast majority of scheduled events and has kept everyone firmly isolated in their homes. Though Ireland had a brief easing of restrictions starting in May, we now find ourselves back in a full level five lockdown for six weeks. So-called “wet pubs” were scarcely open for a few weeks before once again being forced to close their doors. As for the entertainment industry, it never even had a chance to restart. 

On March 24th, the government made the necessary choice to ban mass gatherings of over 5000 people for the foreseeable future. This immediately sank any hopes of a large-scale concert or festival in Ireland until at least Autumn. Popular annual festivals such as Longitude, Body and Soul, Electric Picnic and Sea Sessions were all forced to cancel. Individual gigs were also terminated, as artists could no longer safely perform and international acts were forced to cancel their tour dates. 

Even local acts who perform small venues have struggled to find their footing as restrictions surrounding pubs and gatherings have fluctuated and changed on both a regional and national level. With the instability that COVID brings, how can any artist reliably plan their gigs? It’s a very tough time for those who ply their trade in the arts. A small comfort is that these unprecedented circumstances may spark a wave of creativity as people are stuck in isolation. We’ve already seen a rise in people trying their hand in the “bedroom pop” scene. 

We are now past “Autumn” and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the arts and entertainment sector. As we head back into a second lockdown, we aren’t even able to see our loved ones, nevermind being able to cram into a room or field with strangers accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol. 

Curious to know if any country was allowing festivals, I did some searching online for comparative purposes. Predictably, the majority of festivals have been cancelled or postponed until 2021. There are still a couple of optimistic organisers clinging onto December 2020 timelines but these are being cancelled slowly one by one, Lollapalooza 2020 Brasil being a recent casualty. It looks like we’re all in the same boat globally. 

While far from the preferred experience of sweating it up in a venue, online concerts are an admirable attempt to fill the void. “Asia Rising Forever” was a four-hour online concert in May hosted by American music collective 88rising to showcase Asian artists around the world. Featuring artists like NIKI, Beabadoobee, mxmtoon and Rich Brian, watching the event was an enjoyable way to spend a night in lockdown. Ticketed online concerts are becoming increasingly popular in Korea, with K-Pop groups like (G)I-DLE and MOMOLAND hosting their own gigs. Even right here in UCC, we had a live set from Kerry-based group MESSYNG during the Student Union’s “Digital Freshers Week”. Events like these go a long way to keep some semblance of normalcy in our lives. 

But how long will it take before everything returns to normal? I recently became a fan of the Chicago-based indie-pop group Beach Bunny. On a whim, I decided to see if they were going on tour. Turns out they are! They’re scheduled to play The Workman’s Club, Dublin in April. But then a thought struck me, “Will we even be in a position to allow gigs in April?”. Is there a purpose in buying these tickets only to refund them? Then I pondered if the gigs I already had tickets to, Brockhampton in May 2021 and Beabadobee in September 2021 were even going to happen. We’re living in a world where plans made over a year in advance may not be possible. When can we start looking forward to events again? There isn’t really an answer, only time will tell. 

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