Another 6 months?
I returned to The Bay Jazz Club, in Botany Bay, Enfield for the third time this summer last Tuesday. After a suggestion from me they have replaced their club night, in the bar of a cricket club, to an afternoon session outside the club on the cricket pitch. The new format has been a real success, helped by the good weather we’ve had this summer, allowing live music to continue there. This time I was with “Rico’s Rhythm”, a band led by the fabulous Enrico Tomasso on trumpet. It was lovely to see and play with people I hadn’t seen for over six months. We were all a little out of the gigging routine: I’d promised to bring the pa, but forgot the microphones (luckily someone else had some mics in their car), the drummer brought the wrong snare drum and the trumpeter forgot his music stand. I’d been forward thinking enough to bring a bag of pegs to hold the music though, which turned out to be essential as it was a windy day.
The threatened ‘second wave’ of the epidemic has begun to rear its head, with cases going up all over the country and the government keen to contain it better this time round. Thousands of students headed off to university recently, and there have inevitably been outbreaks among them. There are new rules which include all clubs and bars closing at 10pm. It’s not clear how this will help, but new fines have been introduced for people who break the rules. Anyone caught failing to isolate having been asked to by the ‘Track and Trace’ system will be fined. It’s been revealed that it’s a minority of people that actually take the isolation requests seriously, suggesting the government are fighting the will of the public as well as the virus.
To counter the prescribed 10 pm closing, the few venues and clubs that are actually running are opening earlier. I have a booking in a cocktail bar on a Saturday night next month. In good times we’d have been a four or five piece band, playing between 9 pm and 1 am. If the gig goes ahead I’ll be doing it as a duo, playing between 5:30 and 9:30.
The PM announced that tighter rules would be in place for at least another 6 months. This was no surprise to me, but for it to be laid out so bare was very sobering. At the same time the weather has suddenly turned much colder, leading people to announce up and down the land that summer is over. With the prospect of winter illnesses, on top of Covid, on top of an already exhausted NHS, I’m a little afraid of what’s in store for us. Businesses are going bust, thousands are being laid off, and it seems to be an impossible choice between keeping the economy afloat and avoiding uncontrolled spread of the virus and meltdown in the health service. What with a testing system that seems unable to cope the outlook feels pretty bleak.
A new phone app has been launched nationwide which would help if most people downloaded it, activated it and followed any suggestions to isolate.
Musicians are finding themselves having to justify their job as an essential part of what makes our country tick – one was told by a taxi driver that musicians didn’t deserve financial support because their job was not ‘essential’, but later the taxi driver declared he couldn’t do his job without the music on the radio to keep him sane! The implication is that if a job in music doesn’t pay then we should all just find another job. It ignores the huge industry surrounding the actual musicians – I was in touch with an agent I work with who runs a business fixing bands for events which is now broke. Clients have been asking for their money back for events that didn’t go ahead, but he had already paid the bands in advance. He can’t pay the clients, and hasn’t got the heart to ask for the money back from the musicians who are all out of work.
I’ve started signing up to “Task Rabbit”, to offer my services as a handyman online. If I do get any jobs though it will be demoralising to be working barely above minimum wage putting together flat pack furniture or whatever it is someone wants me to help them with. I’ve flicked through job pages on line and it’s pretty soul destroying. I could try teaching, but the world is already full of bad music teachers who only do it to supplement their income. A good music teacher is a rare and precious person.
I’m lucky to have had any gigs at all. Some I know have had effectively nothing since March. I’m feeling low, but I know I must pull myself out of it. I must get back to writing and recording music, practising my instruments, exercising, and appreciating everything that I do have.
I must continue to believe that we’ll all come out of this,