Hannah White at The Sound Lounge - one of the first indoor gigs in the UK
Hannah White at The Sound Lounge
Live Music Returns indoors well not entirely this was only 1 of 16 venues in the country out of 900 legally allowed to open.
This venue The Sound Lounge was very lucky as the founders/owners were both musicians and one being a sound engineer, they are also fortunate that they can open with some crowd, being that their pop venue is so vast with there new permanent venue coming around October time after finally securing a permanent spot with money due to crowdfunding and donations.
I arrived just after 18:00, knowing that it would be similar to an outdoor gig that I attended the two weeks prior which involved walkways and pre-set out pitch and a one-way system to maintain social distancing.
Upon entry I was greeted by one of there volunteer staff which took my name and contact details and was informed of the rules there was a bright yellow pathway which lead down the venue with arrows pointing in both ways with adequate social distancing in place. There was also hand sanitizer as soon as I entered.
I was then lead to my pre-booked online seat; this was an unticketed event. Pay what you could afford as it was organised as very short notice. They had been planning this for a while; they had been just open as a bar in the previous days at this point, there were only 5/6 people in the venue.
After sitting down at my table luckily down the front as I usually am one for queueing to get a front spot for videoing I bumped into a few my gig buddies that where at a different table I had not seen since March the last gig I attended indoors I would normally see them at least 3/4 times a week as I am out most nights. I then grabbed a drink which was payment via card only for safety.
Over the next two hours the venue started to fill up with Hannah & Kieron undertaking there sound check as it had been a very busy day for them. They were interviewed on sky news at 10am. Kieron was the sound engineer as well as Hannah's backing guitarist. During this time, everyone respectfully maintained their distance with each other. The main event, the indoor live music, kicked of at just after 8:20pm with Hannah welcoming every one to this massive moment for the music industry, and just refreshing the rules so everyone knew how to stay safe. This was Hannah first gig indoors since her new album came out, and also her first time properly playing the guitar since she had broken her wrist the day her album came out. Hannah played her first set of about 50min with tracks from her new album and previous albums playing guitar for parts of it and even playing bass for the first time. Normally Hannah would play guitar all the time but she needed to give her wrist a rest. Over the next 50 minutes there was some banter between Hannah and Kieron about the rules, and how well Kieron's risk assessment had been. The other fact the I already knew like no singing allowed and that we were not even allowed to cheer due to the air droplets coming from the mouth which I am sure surprised some people. Just before the break Hannah made a great joke about not all running to the bar.
After the break of around 20 minutes, Hannah returned to the stage to great applause as that was all that is allowed. Hannah played another 40 minute set with a one track encore and more banter about themselves, Hannah mentioning that she was going to be on 5 Live after her set and how we could make crowd noise by cheering and Kieron pointing out that that’s not allowed let's all cheer instead. What an incredible set from Hannah as always.
The whole venue perfectly laid out with hand sanitizer everywhere. Everything marked out, and tables spaced out perfectly. There were 13 different tables with around 38 customers in the room which is about about a quarter of their capacity of 250. The free booked seats went on Facebook on Friday afternoon at around 4pm with people DM them to book or to use their website and were all gone within 30min.
38 people. The last time Hannah played here the were 190 people in the room. They did mention that they were open, but it wasn’t financially viable which will be the case for almost all venues. They are lucky that they have great volunteer staff able to make this work, and having there own in-house sound engineer and Hannah as an artist.
It felt slightly weird being there knowing that you were at one of only sixteen venues open and the rules everyone must be seated and not singing or cheering.
In these current restrictions, which are entirely understandable, I can’t see any of my regular venues opening safely and actually making financial sense. Who's going to open at a quarter of their capacity and possibly even less as 90% of places aren’t even as big as their pop up venue.
Who knows when venues can adequately open and afford too. and not make a loss, and pay the struggling artists and all the back staff?
One thing I do know, it felt great to be back in a venue, indoors with a proper sound system and stage. We're not out of this situation any time soon if the restrictions and spacings are the way they are at the moment for safety.
Author and all photos and video taken by myself DC Brown