Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be a while before live music is something we can all go to see in person.
It’s a particularly disappointing prospect when entering the summer festival season, where a number of exciting events across the country have had to be postponed.
But, while we’ll have to wait until next year to cross our fingers and hope it doesn’t rain for the big gig we’re planning to go to, live streaming has allowed us to still see unique live performances from the comfort and safety of our homes.
One Scottish festival made the decision to move fully online for the year, allowing attendees to log in to a video chat platform as artists performed live from their living rooms.
Organisers of Knockengorroch presented a special digital version of the popular event, taking place on Zoom rather than in the Galloway hills.
An interactive live concert rather than a more presentational performance, as seen so far during lockdown on Facebook live streams, dancing at home was very much encouraged, with virtual attendees showing off their fancy footwork to fellow guests.
Among the acts performing were Shooglenifty and Afro Celt Sound System, with each member in their own Zoom window.
Afro Celt Sound System’s N’Faly Kouyate dropped in from his village in Guinea, illuminated by his car headlights as he played his grandfather’s ancestral balafon.
The band premiered a brand new tune ‘the Lockdown Gorroch Reel’ and video, written especially for the festival.
Band-mate Simon Emmerson said: “It was an amazing experience. If this is part of the future of live entertainment in a post Covid 19 world count us in.
“It was inspiring, magical and generated a very moving sense of togetherness and solidarity so needed in these dark and fractured times.”
Festival ‘attendees’ were treated to glimpses of an eerily quiet Knockengorroch farm itself – the river, longhouse, Bo Airigh stage and hills.
Festival directors Liz and Simon Holmes reassured them they are eagerly awaiting their return, whilst delivering heartfelt messages of support to artists and attendees alike.
“People constantly commented on how it evoked true feelings of Knockengorroch, those of community, connection, family and love”
By Lizzy Treacy, Crew co-ordinator for Knockengorroch
Waking up with my first festival hangover of the year glitter encrusted, with limbs aching from a long night dancing, beautiful melodies ringing in my ears and a giant smile etched on my face was not something imaginable when lockdown first began nine weeks ago… but last weekend, Virtually Knockengorroch made it all a reality.
When co-producer Katch Holmes approached me to help with an online festival I was keen, but curious as to how it could work – after all there was a only a matter of weeks to turn round her decision to mark the original festival dates with what was aptly named ‘Virtually Knockengorroch’.
After quick research, Katch realised that the platform to deliver the event exactly how she wanted did not yet exist, or was prohibitively expensive. Knockengorroch’s looming dates minimised time to research the full scale of possibilities, so she settled on Zoom as the closest platform capable of hosting the vision.
The authentic, inherently participatory nature of the festival has always marked it out, and Virtually Knockengorroch was no exception. Guests were invited to dress up along this year’s theme of ‘celestial beings’, workshops needed active attendees, guests could create their own campsite breakout rooms if they wanted to chat between sets, dancing was 100% encouraged and, as in any live music event, the more the audience engaged and participated, the better the atmosphere and collective fun.
Participants enthusiastically responded with tents pitched in gardens, campfires, dramatic costumes, elaborate living room decorations and wellies.
For those of us keen festival attendees, it is often the total immersion of the event we enjoy, the stimulation of all our senses, with colours, sights, sounds, tastes and feeling of that which surrounds us, and Knockengorroch Festival always provides that in abundance.
As one participant pointed out, Virtually Knockengorroch could only provide for two of those senses – sight and sound, and yet it still exceeded all expectations.
Over the weekend, people constantly commented on how it evoked true feelings of Knockengorroch, those of community, connection, family and love.
It was a transformative experience for many artists – one poignant comment that it was wonderful to hear a live round of applause.
For those of us still up and dancing on Sunday night, it was all over far too quickly.
Knockengorroch is one of the very first festivals of the summer and one of the first ‘greenfield’ music festivals in Scotland. It paved the way for Scottish festivals and has now paved the way again – taking itself online over a variety of platforms in a groundbreaking event in our Covid-19 affected foreseeable future.
By the end of the summer things will have been tried; new and better platforms may well be available but Knockengorroch has once again kicked off festival season in style and is blazing a trail like no other in these uncertain times.