Review of 2021

Well 2021 didn’t pan out the way we hoped it would. 

At the beginning of 2021, it looked like by September we would all be vaccinated with very effective vaccines and life would be returning to normal. I started to buy tickets with increased expectations. A few in July and August to tip my toes in, with an eye on restarting regular gigging in September. Then Delta hit and things changed.

Figures weren’t great in July when we opened up. So I cancelled those early gigs. I decided to give my first planned gig in August a miss and then later found out several people had come down with COVID after the gig. As August went by, it was clear the vaccines were less effective at stopping a Delta infection than they were with the original virus. While they significantly reduced deaths, many were still being hit hard by Delta and suffering long COVID. Disappointingly, it was also clear the majority of venues were not going to ask for masks, vaccine passports or lateral flow tests. Something I think was a mistake.

This changed my plans. 

I decided to try and be sensible and reduce the number of gigs to one during weekdays and Daylight Music on a Saturday. I also decided to continue to mask up and to do lateral flow tests before every gig. I figured it is no good being at the front giving the band COVID. Disappointingly at times, I’ve been the only person wearing a mask in the audience and I guess many are not doing lateral flow tests.

I think it’s fair to say, gigging in general was affected by cancellations due to COVID infections. I think I missed about half a dozen gigs between September and December due to them being cancelled or rescheduled. If I had a sniffle, I also gave the gig a miss. I also missed a few after being pinged at the LIFE gig. Then to make matters worse, the new Omicron strain hit gigging in December leading to mass cancellations. While this strain doesn’t look as deadly. It’s wiping out gigs and tours with January cancellations starting. In fact, as I write this, I’ve just had a positive test and I’ve had to cancel Rockaway Beach at the beginning of January. There’s going to be a lot of cancelations over the next month.

So this wasn’t a good year for gigging. I only managed 23 gigs this year, rather than the 60 or so I had pencilled in.

But we did get to go to gigs. 

At times I didn’t think it would ever happen. So I had to wear a mask. Doing a LFT is hardly taxing. I may have picked ‘safer’ venues with good ventilation and less reliance on tube travel. But these choices were a small price to pay to be back seeing live music.

So I guess, given where we were last year, 2021 was a good year after all. 

Best Festival: Wide Awake Festival

A new London festival and a rather fine addition to the London festival scene. From the fabulous Bad Vibrations team, the festival had a brilliant lineup featuring IDLES, Murder Capital, Dry Cleaning, Black Country New Road, Black Midi and many others. Located in Brockwell Park, the location worked really well. Definitely a festival to keep an eye on.

Best Gig: All

It’s difficult to give out a best gig this year. Just going to a gig after nearly 18 months was a life affirming experience. Returning to Daylight Music was a brilliant. Catching up with Sea Power was a tonic. Going to my first real gig with Pozi was a really life lifting a weight off me. Nadine Shah impressively owned the 100 Club, reminding us how music can be so vital. But it would be unfair to single out one gig. So this year, I’m going to give the award to gigging in general

Band of the year: Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaning released their critically acclaimed debut album, New Long Leg. They also played a number of festivals including a great set at Wide Awake Festival. Pretty much everyone who sees them loves them. There’s something special about the way Florence delivers her stories while the rest of the band create music that spirals around her. 

Dry Cleaning at Wide Awake

Best new band: Wet Leg?

With one of the catchiest songs in years. Wet Leg show a lot of promise. I only managed to see them once and the event felt very ‘industry’. It will be interesting seeing them with normal punters later in the year.

Wet Leg at Omeara

Best gig photo: Sea Power at Derby

Let’s face it. This is what we’ve missed. It was so good to have live music back.

Album of the Year: Dry Cleaning, New Long Leg