I don’t know about you, but there are several elements of the Covid recess that are really starting to grate: the social distance that has developed; our clunky new vocabulary of ‘lockdown’, ‘new normal’ and ‘Zoom’; Matt Hancock.
The upheaval we’ve had has been necessary, of course (apart from Matt Hancock). We owe a lot to the selfless among us who’ve been working hard to limit the effects of the pandemic. And while I could get used to the new table service regime and click-and-collect supermarketing, I do still long for the before times, the sharing of moments, the communality of groups, the witnessing of a performance together. There’s only so much music you can listen to on your own, after all.
That cycle that we had grown so accustomed to is now massively different, changed by our basic knowledge of epidemiology and infection. Live performances and even medium-sized gatherings look to be verboten for the foreseeable future, which causes a massive worry for the precariously-balanced music ecosystem – which barely gets by anyway. We’ve already seen fractures develop in the foundations of this culture; a quasi-religion of going out, ‘doing a festival’ and Red Stripe cans at gigs, which is second in the unofficial national faith stakes to football. In the closure of venues and space, it is the small fry who prop this pyramid up who have suffered the most, without the capital to tide them through these tough times.
There are actually lots of similarities between music and football. Like in football, if you only protect those at the top then you remove the very soul of the game. Football in the UK isn’t just the Premier League. Sure, it’s the home of the best players and the biggest crowds, but it’s not accessible for everyone, and as much joy is derived from the fans and players of Prescot Cables and Wallasey Wanderers as from Liverpool and Everton. Value isn’t just measured in profit, or turnover, or jobs sustained. It’s something more primal that is felt, enjoyed, shared.
I’ve long thought that the health of The Zanzibar was indicative of the general health of Liverpool music, even if it’s not been the cultural hotspot that it was 15 years ago. The building occupies a prime spot on Seel Street, but its presence is far greater, giving music a place at the heart of a bustling, noisy city. Sound, on Duke Street, was perhaps on its way to becoming The Zanzi’s spiritual successor, a special place for a small group of artists who saw it as their playground. What does it say that The Zanzi, Sound, and even Parr Street Studios, can’t afford to hack it in our new-look city centre? Admittedly, the cracks in this venue-gig-artist-crowd ecosystem existed pre-pandemic, and have been accentuated because of the lockdown. But that doesn’t mean we should accept our lot and let them slide away, does it? When I think of what I want to enjoy in a world free of Coronavirus anxiety, I think of places where I can listen to music with others, and feel part of something bigger. Is that too much to ask?
It might be a small thing, but having Bido Lito! back in print is a step towards that ideal. Through these pages, we can start to share an appreciation of music again, as a community rather than as isolated individuals. And as the gears of pink industry get moving once more, it’s an apt time for the new people leading this drive to take up the baton and run with it. Here’s to Elliot and Sam leading Bido into a bright new era, as I watch on from the Mersey’s west bank. This ain’t farewell – it’s see you soon.