Remember concerts? In covid-free New Zealand, it’s a reality and not just a memory.

Remember concerts? In covid-free New Zealand, it’s a reality and not just a memory.

10/26/2020 7:47:00 AM

Remember concerts? In covid-free New Zealand, it’s a reality and not just a memory.

The nation took drastic efforts to wipe out the virus, and bands and fans are among those reaping the benefits.

. The latter has just wrapped a tour during which she live-streamed a concert from the 12,000-person capacity Spark Arena. “That’ll be one of the only live streams [that’s not] someone alone in their living room,” Campbell Smith, who co-manages Benee, said a few days before the event. “You can see, in New Zealand, thousands of people jammed together at a concert, legitimately.”

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Reuben Bonner, the director of the booking and management company Banished Music, is an organizer with Save Our Venues, a fundraising effort created early in New Zealand’s pandemic. The idea, he explains, was to help venues with things like rent and payroll. But Save Our Venues was ultimately needed only as a stopgap: In July, the government opened the

NZ Music Venue Infrastructure Fundthrough which venues were eligible for up to $50,000 NZD (about $33,000 U.S.) of relief. Bonner says that workers at venues felt utterly vulnerable at first. “But it went quickly from ‘grim’ to ‘maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,’ ” he said.

In the United States, an organization calledNIVA, the National Independent Venue Association, was similarly formed early in the pandemic. NIVA has championed a bill called Save Our Stages, which would distribute $10 billion worth of relief grants. In September, the bill passed the House of Representatives as part of a larger congressional stimulus package. But with those stimulus negotiations sputtering in the Senate, there’s no indication that support for independent venues will come anytime soon. In a NIVA survey from September, 90 percent of respondents said that, without federal assistance, they won’t stay open six months.

ADAD“I talk to venue owners across the country every day,” says Audrey Fix Schaefer, NIVA’s director of communications. “There is an underlying sadness that we don’t get to wake up and put on shows and see that mass communal experience. But that is not the prevailing sense. The prevailing sense is utter fear. How do you make your bills?” From Oct. 16 to 18, NIVA and YouTube presented an awareness-raising live-stream event,

#SOSFest. The “presenting sponsor” was Bud Light Seltzer.While New Zealand’s venues and bands don’t have to rely on the largesse of obscure beverage brands, their situation is far from ideal. By the end of their current tour, the Beths will have played 17 shows in their home country. Under normal conditions at that juncture, they would have likely played more than 60 lucrative international dates.

“Playing in the USA especially is good for our band,” Pearce says. “The good people of the USA like to buy T-shirts!” Financially, says Stokes, “It’s been a huge hit.” Adds Pearce, quietly, “I wouldn’t like to guess what the number is.”ADADStokes estimates that in 2018, touring behind their debut album “Future Me Hates Me,” the Beths lost money. In 2019, they managed to break even. “And this year was looking good,” she says. “Like we might make a little bit of money. Which would have been nice.”

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Stokes acknowledges the pain of having the band’s upward trajectory upended, but only briefly. “We’re really lucky to play in New Zealand,” she adds quickly. “It’s quite validating, in music — to feel like you are valued.” Says Pearce, “There’s an acknowledgment that you’ve been hit hard but that you are a viable enterprise.”

By mid-June, New Zealand’slockdown had lifted enough to allow conditional live music. Venue capacity was limited to 100 people with everyone seated and table service only. Lukas Mayo, a.k.a. Pickle Darling, is a musician from Christchurch who’ll be supporting the Beths on tour. Once live music started up again, Mayo went to everything he could see in Christchurch. “Even if I don’t like the band, I’ve been going to shows,” he says. “Where else in the world are shows happening? It’s, like, everyone should go to every show!” By July, bookers were putting on, and selling out, stadium concerts.

ADAD“We had no community transition for 100 days,” Bonner says. “Everything was looking peachy. I think everyone was feeling a little bit smug, too.” Then, in mid-August, a covid-19 cluster appeared in Auckland, and New Zealand went back into lockdown.

When the second lockdown was announced, the Beths were weeks away from starting their tour. They pushed the whole thing back to early October, hoping the situation would improve. Metcalf, the band’s tour manager, says that “there is no certainty. Any show or tour can be canceled at any time. We had to minimize liability and maximize agility.” On Sept. 21, the lockdown was largely lifted. Days later, on Instagram,

the Beths posted an announcement: “Ok so after getting advice from the Ministry Of Health, we have great news and that news is that the tour is ON!”There were still specific, confusing complications. While the rest of the country was on Level 1 — the country’s lowest covid-19 warning level — the Beths are from Auckland, which was still under tougher Level 2 restrictions. Consulting with the Ministry of Health, Metcalf was told the band had to “take our level with us.” That meant they had to socially distance from fans and the other bands. In their Instagram announcement, the band cheerily tried to explain: “Unfortunately we (beths) will not be able to get out ‘amongst it’ in the ‘mosh’ . . . But here’s the thing we get to PLAY some MUSIC for PEOPLE.”

ADADBeyond the Beths’ tour, as New Zealand’s summer approaches, mass events beckon. While one prominent festival, Laneway, is taking the year off, the other major multiday parties — Rhythm and Vines, Bay Dreams, Northern Bass — are all rolling on. As international acts are still barred entry, New Zealand’s live music industry will be relying on its homegrown talent for the summer circuit. Remarkably, the industry is making it work.

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“We are hermetically sealed within New Zealand,” Campbell Smith says. “We have great, great local talent. But do we have enough of it to last until the borders open? It’s also fairly clear that if another cluster is discovered, we’ll go back into lockdown, which doesn’t help with long-term planning or the confidence of the market. And still: We are doing a heck of a lot better than anywhere else in the world.”

A week into their return to the road, the Beths’ Stokes provided an update. “Touring is starting to feel normal,” she emailed. “It felt a bit like standing up after sitting in a chair for a long time. The gig last night in Palmerston North was a highlight. Met a bunch of kids who are all musicians, we love to see it.” Best of all: As of 11:59pm on Oct. 7, all of New Zealand, including Auckland, is back on Level 1. The Beths don’t have to socially distance from anyone. “The NZ community is officially COVID free! We can now mingle with the crowds.”

ADAD Read more: The Washington Post »

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BradleyWhitford Yes. let’s be reminded of that there is a Shangri-la somewhere on Earth that is the antithesis of what we are living. Thanks for that. Hope their borders are closed,I know its an island. But don't let anyone in for awhile. gtconway3d George Conway is retweeting the craziest things. One minute he loves our president next minute he hates his wife Kellyanne Conway. He is in a hospital bed looking and acting like the guy Gollum from lords of the ring.

gtconway3d True Story - this week in Whanganui ☺️ gtconway3d Way to late for America !! To many selfish people ! gtconway3d Do jealous. We have tickets to 3 BTS stadium concerts that were postponed in the US. WHEN? gtconway3d When women lead, amazing results shall follow. There was a better smarter scientific way but we had the stupidest person in the history of the world in charge here in America. fucktrump VOTE

gtconway3d It amazes me to see articles like this. All we did was listen to the science and take the logical practical steps to get this virus under control. We aren't special in New Zealand, we just aren't stupid bloody science denying morons. gtconway3d Must be nice to have an awesome leader gtconway3d Woman leader👍

Now do Taiwan, who had a massive 10K+ people concert almost a month ago gtconway3d My last live music was March 8. It was also the last concert my wife got to attend. (Boston Clavichord Society. mostly Bach - if I had to pick a last concert, it wouldn't be the worst choice) That’s because they have a competent leader & the citizens weren’t whiny cry babies about wearing masks & being locked down. It will be quite awhile before we get to have concerts again.

If you want to treat hunter Biden leaks like a foreign intelligence operation. Then we should treat the washing post like the fake news left-wing bias media organization that it is.... gtconway3d POTUS could’ve and should’ve gtconway3d tinyruins in NZ too ☘️🤘❤️ gtconway3d Kick Ass bands there too theBatsNZ & theverlaines FlyingNun

gtconway3d Trump canceled America. Time to cancel HIM. In an island country where the total population is just under 5 million compared to 325 million. In New Zealand’s . If the population of New Zealand was as big as the USA it would be much harder to control . drfarmertx Instead of fluff pieces about another country's success, how about seriously holding this Republican administration accountable for their double failure: They can't control COVID and they WON'T support people.

Cause sheep don’t transmit Covid Oh come on - New Zealand is an island with 3.6 million people and low pop density. You cannot compare countries. Europe, Middle East, India, and South America are also bad and all have totally different demographies. Achieving low/no Covid in New Zealand should be easy...!

Pity all the good Kiwi bands moved to Australia. Sweden never shut down and now they're back to normal. What's your point?

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