Miss live music? Try these 10 alternatives

It’ll be a while until we’re drenched in other people’s sweat, blowing away a sh*t week with vibrations from a Marshall stack.

Healthcare experts predict gigs and festivals will have to wait until “fall 2021 at the earliest”, realistically. The truth is, nobody knows - but bands, musicians, promoters, venues and tour teams have been knocked for six. 

So, what now? 

Well, we can’t deliver a transcendent summer of festivals, friends and face-melting volume in one article. But we can help scratch the itch a bit.

1. Go on tour in a time-warp

Follow Sonic Youth on their European tour in 1991, with up-and-coming band Nirvana as their opening act. A far cry from media-produced portrayals, 1991: The Year Punk Broke delivers honest, behind-the-scenes footage and live performances. It’s also totally quotable. Other familiar faces include Dinosaur Jr., Babes In Toyland, The Ramones, Gumball and Mudhoney.



2. Book up for livestream gigs

Without slipping into the dark side of chronic positivity, there is a silver lining in all this. You can buy tickets for gigs and festivals all around the world now, without having to contort yourself into the back of your mate’s tiny car for a seven-hour journey to a town you’ve never heard of. 

Ticketmaster’s pulled together this mix of live performances, masterclasses, Q&As, archived footage, DJ sets and more - all confirmed to take place over the next couple of months. From three Idles gigs in a mysterious “iconic” location to an entire weekender with headliners including Jimmy Eat World, Thrice and Enter: Shikari (looking at you: 2000 Trees Festival) - all live - there’s still plenty of bands keeping us busy.


3. Get to a drive-in gig IRL

From road raves in Germany and the US, to ragga-rock metal in the UK, summer shows are popping up all over the place. 

Utilita Live From The Drive-In have bands such as Skindred, Ash and our friends Elvana (the world’s first Elvis-fronted Nirvana tribute) confirmed at events around the UK. 

The set-up complies with official pandemic guidelines, allowing fans to “enjoy concerts in a one-of-a-kind drive-in setting from their own private individual viewing zones next to their cars”. 

Here’s what a social-distanced drive-in gig looks like: Danish musician Mads Langer said “each car felt like a small venue”.

4. Slink into a good musicomentary 

Buckle up: it’s a good time to learn more about musicians. We can stream everything from Keith Richards: Under the Influence documentary to The Dirt Motley Crue biopic on Netflix. 

Eclectic tastes are spoilt rotten: Hip-Hop Evolution, ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band from Texas, What Happened, Miss Simone?, The Black Godfather, and Cobain: Montage of Heck. The latter’s no longer on Netflix, but it is a hauntingly intimate look at the archives of Kurt, brought to life with animations that Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins says are cool, but the rest of the doc “is bullsh*t”.

Outside of Netflix, try The Punk Singer (the story of riot grrrl pioneer, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna), Bad Reputation (Joan Jett doc), and Rolling Thunder Revue too: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorcese (includes appearances from Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell).

Iggy Pop’s producing some brilliant stuff. His Punk docu-series (featuring Henry Rollins, John Lydon, Viv Albertine, Jello Biafra, Joan Jett, Flea, Ian Mackaye, and Marky Ramone) is worth a watch. Iggy also produced Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk (on Amazon Prime). Co-produced by Green Day, the doc looks at California Bay Area’s punk music history, particularly the 924 Gilman Street music collective.


5. Learn the lesser-known stuff

Before punk, there was... A Band Called Death

This documentary is a must-watch, telling the story of three African-American brothers who started a proto-punk band in early 1970s Detroit. Record companies on a Motown diet found the band’s music (and name) too extreme. But when Death’s dusty demo tape was discovered nearly 30 years later, the band finally received their long-overdue recognition.

And if you like that, check out Searching for Sugar Man. The award-winning musicomentary follows the true story of American musician Sixto Rodriguez, who was bigger than Elvis in South Africa but didn’t have a clue about it. 


6. Go on a musical Youtube binge

Some of the best live performances of all time live on YouTube. Just type in your favourite band’s name and fill your boots. 

Amoeba Music has more than 400 episodes of ‘What’s in My Bag?’, where everyone from Ghost to Garbage go shopping in the world’s largest indie record store, then describe what they’ve bought.

There are also dedicated music channels such as Trash Theory and RAWMUSICTV (docs on Rammstein, Bring Me The Horizon, Ozzy and Marilyn Manson), which suck you into a magical music-buff-hole in an instant.

And metalheads, rejoice. YouTube channel BANGERTV goes deep into death metal, black metal and grindcore. Watch its series documenting the history of heavy metal, including this episode on Extreme Metal (which sheds a light on all of us who do the washing and cook dinner listening to Morbid Angel).


7.  Read more music writing

You can almost smell the grilled cheese sandwich vans, Strongbow puke and boggy portaloos reading Zing Tsjeng’s achingly visceral description of British festivals

Zing paints the characters so well. Like, the people who build entire personalities around festivals (“oh him, that’s Festival Dave”) and the OG festival legends (“grizzled bearded men in steampunk goggles who raved at free parties in the 80s but are now in deep and meaningful relationships with real ale”). 

If you’re looking for something a bit longer to sink your teeth into, swot up on books such as Lords of Chaos (all about the satanic metal underground), Girls to the Front (story of the riot grrrl revolution), Everybody Loves Our Town (a history of grunge), and Kim Gordon’s Girl In A Band.


8.  Blast some new bands

If you’re stuck in a music rut, now is the perfect time to discover new artists. Bandcamp’s Discover section is a useful way to do this, as is Spotify’s ‘Fans Also Like’ feature. Spotify creates radio stations based on your recommendations (Last.fm does this too) and you can see what your mates are listening to (including us).


9. Join forums and FB groups 

You can’t replicate the shared human connection of seeing your favourite band by watching a live video of Pearl Jam on YouTube. The next best thing (apart from social-distanced meet-ups) is to get yourself on music forums, subreddits and music Facebook groups where like-minded people share and talk about music. 

Social media is also rife with music challenges that might just bring up bands you’ve forgotten about and spark conversations/heated debates on eg. Who is the best Misfits vocalist of all time? (Answer: Danzig). 


10. Support musicians and venues

Music Venue Trust has responded to the UK Government with a five-step plan to #SaveOurVenues, while the entire music industry has united with a #LetTheMusicPlay hashtag. 

Already, grassroots music venues have received a £1.57 billion rescue package. Things are happening to keep live music alive. 

While we wait this out, we can keep supporting our favourite bands and venues. Buy merch, vinyls, tapes, CDs, books, tickets to livestream and drive-in events. 

And if all this fails to satiate, start your own damn band.


Words by Nina Cresswell.