• Come Together NE

The New Normal of the Newcastle Music Scene

Lauren Stones

A thud of realisation hit me around three weeks into lockdown. I had jumped on the bandwagon of live streaming every song I knew on Facebook, chatting away at a blank screen like a demented talk show host and hoping that a nugget of validation in the form of a comment or heart react would appear. Back when we could all perform live, I was used to playing to a room of five people or less, but when it’s in your living room, you’re trying to balance your laptop on a Casio keyboard and have to get your flatmate to run upstairs and get your charger halfway through your set, it’s another beast altogether. When it was over, I’d find myself staring into the bottom of a bottle of £4 Sainsbury’s Shiraz, wondering if there was a way to summon that adrenaline rush from playing live ever again.

I was invited to join a closed mic, the idea being we play a few songs to each other via Zoom and have a chat around each act. Christened “Bar Nogo” after one of our regular haunts Bar Loco, it was the first saving grace for me during lockdown. It helped me feel like I was being listened to, and the themes each week give me a purpose on days where I almost feel like packing it all in. And there had been many of those days; a natural response when the only feedback you’re getting comes from your inner critic.

The secret to battling this is to collaborate, or at least it is in my experience. I supported David McAllister in his show Rhyming Rebels done via Facebook Live, co-hosted by Spinning Superiority Record Shop and Come Together NE.

I’d heard about their first live streaming festival and was very impressed that they’d raised over £2000 for the NHS. I was very keen to perform in the second digital festival and do my bit to help fundraise for local venues, so jumped at the chance to perform on the Sunday night. Two of them hosted my first couple of paid gigs – The Cumberland Arms and Ziggy’s South Shields – and the rest I am still determined to play when the threat level of the virus has decreased.

The combination of having the fundraising target to achieve and the amount of people who were projected to tune in (around 2000 people per stream) was the thing that got the adrenaline pumping through my veins again. Once that lifeblood had returned, I forgot that I was in a house with four other people. My vocal cords were convinced that they were in Station East, Ziggy’s, The Cluny and Bar Loco all at once. And so a new normality was born.

It might be Autumn 2021 before live music is projected to be back on track again, but Come Together NE continues to deliver a message of hope and community spirit. We want to help our venues be able to open their doors and welcome us with open arms when the time comes. And I’ll be there with a glass of Shiraz, marvelling at how the actions of a determined collective helped to save the live music scene in Newcastle.

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