2020 MUSIC: LOCKDOWN LEGENDS

Everyone knows it’s been a weird year. But who stepped up, musically, to make lockdown bearable and even enjoyable?

Here’s a shout out to those music-world bods who gifted us and made 2020 a hell of a lot more sane.

METALLICA

Of course Metallica. They released S&M 2. They did a drive-in show. They recorded stripped versions of Blackened and Would? from their homes and streamed an unplugged set. But best of all, they launched Metallica Mondays, right at the start of lockdown when we most needed some anchor points to stabilise our confused heads. What a move: put a whole gig online from any year at the same time every Monday. A weekly date. And they did this for the whole of lockdown #1, which meant about 26 consecutive weeks.

Best bits? The rambling, and always touching, Lars introduction brought a smile every time. The way Fuel kicked open the Munich 2015 gig. The House of Vans set from 2016.

But the 2019 Manchester set is the ultimate repeat view. Pissing-down rain made for many dramatic rock band visuals – the water spattered Master of Puppets drums being one, a drenched Trujillo doing Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) straight after Rob and Kirk’s I Wanna Be Adored doodle being another (find it at 1 hour 6 minutes).

ROBERT FRIPP AND TOYAH WILCOX SUNDAY LOCKDOWN LUNCH

Did not see this coming. The diary entries that Robert Fripp put up during the height of lockdown offered an insight into his dedicated, reflective self. But these Sunday lunch performances with wife Toyah? Insight of a wholly different sort, the warmest of weekly invitations. Toyah always vibrant. And Fripp? Take your pick. Doing odd duets, cranking out Sweet Child O Mine, doing Nirvana… yes, it really happened and much more too. Got to love Fripp’s laugh at the end.

BANDCAMP FRIDAYS

Bandcamp already Do the Right Thing by musicians. And when the pandemic threatened musicians’ survival, Bandcamp stepped in with an initiative to support them: Bandcamp Friday. For any music bought on the first Friday of the month, Bandcamp waived their fees so that artists got more of the revenue. Perfect thinking. I found myself trying to buy something (and mostly succeeding) on each of those Fridays.

PRE-ORDERING NEW MUSIC

OK, not a legend in itself because it’s a verb, but it’s a behavioural change that struck me this year and, like Bandcamp Fridays, became another Right Thing to Do.

It’s Old Man Gloom’s doing. By pre-ordering their new album(s), they said, the record label (Profound Lore) would get some money in. Pre-order and you help keep things afloat. Deal. Same with picking up a pre-order down the local record shop … get some cash their way, help them survive 2020’s financial shitstorm. If you were going to buy the album anyway, be prompt if poss.

And you know what? It’s been fun doing this. It’s revived the excitement from adolescence when you just had to buy an album the day or week it came out. It’s easy to lose that experience as an adult. Reserving some purchases for physical release day brought a bit of it back. Nice.

DANNY CAREY’S PNEUMA DRUM CAM VIDEO

If you need meditation, this is it. This video makes you feel good to be alive. HOW DOES HE DO IT??? And how can watching someone master their craft somehow make it even more mysterious than when you hadn’t seen it? The ‘reaction’ videos get addictive, especially when it’s teachers doing the reacting. This is a great reaction video, mostly for the guy’s valid reason for not getting into Tool, and then his crestfallen expression at the end. You feel for the guy and love the fact that another Tool conversion is made. This drum teacher reacts clip is another goodie. OK, must stop. Wormhole beckons. But the star of all this is Danny Carey.

BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC

Or, whatever your chosen radio station is. Because our broadcasters have been unsung heroes in this shit year as well. Programming was changed just enough to reflect the bigger communal spirit. New features brought in listeners and recognised key workers.

As a listener, at home every day, I felt like we really were in this together. And the broadcasters did a stellar job of getting the balance right without being gauche, superficial or patronising. They entertained and informed and kept spirits up. MASSIVE THANKS TO 6 MUSIC (and not just because we’re friends with this guy).

LOCKDOWN MUSIC: WEEK 5 – FRIPP

WHICH MUSICIANS ARE KEEPING YOU GOING? The weekly Metallica Mondays are a welcome treat, especially when Lars does the intro (haven’t seen James and Kirk yet). His rambles are warm and wordy (what else?), and the togetherness of the whole thing just makes you feel good. The chance to see all this live Metallica footage is a very cool gesture.

And if you haven’t done it already, check the way Fuel rips open the Munich 2015 show (2 minutes 30 seconds into the clip). THAT’S how you start a gig. Any band who can make that many people that happy is doing something right. Stick around for Disposable Heroes too, great live version.

A very different type of communication comes from Robert Fripp. As you’d expect. But also very much not as you’d expect. His daily ‘I Advance Masked’ diary updates have routine at their core, and this becomes quietly comforting and part of your own new routine. It’s like reading Henry Rollins’s books, you get the same format every time.

But Fripp occupies a wholly different space with lengthy, thoughtful, analytical explorations and excerpts from past diary encounters. And he sometimes reveals a side you’d never expect – I mean, did anyone see this coming?

It’s the scheduling that works well with these things when we’re locked down. The regularity. Sideways music moments to look forward to. Who are you tuning in to?

Lockdown Week 5. As predicted, no wall-of-metal soundtracks to block out the noise when working, because work ain’t happening. Instead, much more following of whims. The listening went something like this.

APRIL 18
Thom Yorke – The Eraser

Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent

Yorke, The Eraser: Harrowdown Hill was always a standout but the bass-shifting twitch of Black Swan is hard to beat. Forgot how strong this album is.

APRIL 19
Ministry – Rio Grande Blood

APRIL 20
Ministry – Houses of the Mole

APRIL 21
Ministry – Houses of the Mole

Ministry – The Last Sucker

(bit of a theme, this week …}

APRIL 22
Ministry – The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

Gil Scott Heron & Makaya McCraven – We’re New Again

APRIL 23
PJ Harvey – The Hope Demolition Project

Desert Sessions Vol 11 and 12
Gil Scott Heron & Makaya McCraven – We’re New Again

APRIL 24
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Viscerals

New Ministry track, Alert Level

Stay safe, keep the music ON!

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