When Dropkick Murphys had their St. Patrick's Day concert canceled thanks to coronavirus, the Celtic punk rockers instead broadcast a free live "Streaming up from Boston" show on Facebook and YouTube. Such online COVID concerts have become a trend. As bans on mass gatherings persist, musicians are increasingly turning to livestreamed shows as a substitute for traditional performances.
Big names such as John Legend and Chris Martin have gotten in on the action. Post Malone and Blink-182's Travis Barker played a surprisingly good socially distanced cover concert of Nirvana songs. (It was unfortunately raising money for the World Health Organization, which bungled the early days of the crisis badly.) Metallica and the Rolling Stones are posting past concert footage once a week on their YouTube pages.
The underground is at it too. Austin-based Napalm Records has livestreamed its roster of metal bands playing shows or doing fan Q&As for their "sofa series." Maryland rockers Clutch have taken to streaming unannounced 15-minute sets from their "Doom Saloon."
COVID concerts can be surprisingly enjoyable. No longer must one struggle to see the stage, wait in line for the bathroom, or pay too much for beer. Professional performers have proven adept at maintaining their stage presence in the absence of a crowd. Modern technology ensures they sound as good as your home audio equipment permits. The concept is a lifeline for small-time artists who would otherwise have little way of reaching fans or making money right now.
Still, the livestreams are a heavy reminder of just how different life is under COVID-19. Even as other aspects of life reopen, packed concerts are going to be one of the last things to come back. That's about as depressing as Post Malone's livestreamed cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."