Which one of you brought this goat?
We are approaching the end of another year and still we have the spectre of Covid hanging over us, a storm warning on the horizon. Nevertheless, I'm sure the weather is milder and more pleasant than it was this time last year. That might just be climate change though.
It's not a party, it's a gathering
We've heard some pretty bizarre claims and lame excuses over the last couple of years, such as the infamous Barnard Castle eye test, Jacob Rees-Mogg claiming that Tory MPs don't need to wear face coverings because they all know each other, and then we had the Downing Street spin doctors who came up with the line that it wasn't a party, it was a gathering. I wonder where they got that idea from?
This Sunday, December 19th, we are going to have an end of year acoustic at The Tree, but it's okay, it isn't a party, it's a gathering, and we'll be using paper hats and tinsel to ward off bugs.
Making it as Covid-safe as possible
Seriously though, we are trying to make the venue and event as Covid-safe as possible. We want it to be safer than a trip to a supermarket for your Christmas shopping. Everyone involved in organising and playing will be taking lateral flow tests in advance, and if you are coming we'd ask that you take one too if at all possible. Even though it is mid-winter, we'll be keeping windows and doors open to improve ventilation, so you might want to wear a jumper. Please sanitize often, resist the urge to hug friends you haven't seen for ages, and try to keep some distance whilst talking to people. Face masks are optional in pubs, but I would encourage you to wear them when moving around inside the venue or using the toilets.
Where and when
The Tree Hotel
63 Church Way, Iffley
Oxford OX4 4EY
The music starts at 4:15pm, runs until about 7:30pm, and will feature Tony and Sal strumming out the blues, followed by the moveable feast of musicians which is Mark Atherton and Friends, and finishing up with a set from Britain's most landlocked sea shanty band, The Monkeyfists. Food will be available from The Tree's excellent kitchen. The pub garden, which has some covered areas, will be open if you would prefer to eat outside, or just move outside for a chat with friends and some fresh air. If you are coming by bus, the nearest bus routes are the 3, 3A, and 3B, and the nearest stop in both directions is Iffley Turn. Remember you MUST wear masks on public transport.
Recent regulation changes and the music scene
Covid Passports became a legal requirement in England this week for entering certain establishments. At the time of writing, pubs in England are not required to check for Covid passes, but nightclubs are. If a gig is held in a room in a pub and finishes at the same time as the pub closes, does that make it a pub or a nightclub?
My experience to date is that many venues and gig organisers are erring on the safe side of the law and requiring Covid passes for gigs so it would be a good idea for you to get one ready now, just in case you need it at short notice. You can install the NHS app on your phone, and if you don't have a mobile or don't have any credit left, you can also get an NHS letter validating your vaccination status. This page explains how it works:
Regardless of your vaccination status, or whether or not the venue is asking for Covid passes on entry, please take lateral flow tests before you go to gigs, or office parties, (sorry, gatherings), Christmas family get-togethers, dental appointments, and so on. Please don't go if you have a positive result, or if you have developed any of the symptoms of Covid, such as a high temperature, persistent dry cough, or loss of taste or smell. If in doubt, play safe. Keep yourself safe. Keep others safe.
The Christmas hit factory
Every Christmas, the record industry becomes obsessed with getting the Christmas Day number one hit record, whilst radio stations treat us to an endless diet of sugar coated "classics". Still, maybe there is an outside chance of them playing something different this year, like "Merry Christmas Everyone". No, I don't mean the Shakin' Stevens original, I mean the irreverent cover version by Punk Rock Factory:
Punk Rock Factory, who played at the Oxford O2 a couple of weeks back, have a US-style Bowling For Soup vibe to them, but they describe themselves as four idiots from South Wales, making DIY punk rock covers.
A ghost from Christmas past
It won't be the first time that a heavyweight band has done a cover of a Christmas song. I wonder if any of you remember the US heavy metal band, Twisted Sister, and their cover released fifteen Christmases ago of this John Francis Wade composition? I expect you'll recognise the original, but unlikely you'll remember the cover version which didn't even get into the top 200.
If someone tells you that song is disrespectful, remind them that it is a Christian hymn, the words and tune are unchanged, and the video actually portrays a message of broad-mindedness and acceptance.
The Twisted Christmas album included a version of the immensely irritating "Twelve Days Of Christmas" but made more palatable because Twisted Sister created their own gift list which went:
Twelve silver crosses
Eleven black mascaras
Ten pairs of platforms
Nine tattered t-shirts
Seven leather jackets
Six cans of hairspray
Five skull-head ringsssssssssss
Four quarts of Jack
Three studded belts
Two pairs of pants
And a tattoo of Ozzy Ozbourne
If your band is playing a gig this Christmas, maybe you should nick the idea and create your own version of the Christmas Gifts playlist, (though I shudder to think what Beaver Fuel would come up with).
Look beyond the uniforms
Angela Merkel has formally stepped down as Chancellor of Germany, at a traditional military ceremony in which the departing leader gets to choose the music. It came as no surprise that Merkel, head of the Christian Democratic Union, chose the Christian hymn, "Holy God, we praise thy name", or the popular German song from the 1960s, "It should rain red roses for me". But eyebrows were raised by her third choice, a song by the godmother of German punk rock, Nina Hagen. The song "Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen" has been covered by many bands in Germany, in many styles, but here is the rare footage of Hagen's original performance of it on East German TV in 1974 with her first band, Automobile.
The song is a tale of a young woman's dismay that her boyfriend forgot the colour film for the camera when they went on holiday. Her photos are all in black and white, and no-one will ever know the joy of colour. The song was widely seen as a thinly-veiled criticism of the East German regime and the grey drabness of Eastern Bloc life, and became the protest anthem and rallying cry of Berliner dissidents. Music can make a difference.
Next slide please
Never forget that your music and your art can be used to make powerful statements. Yes, you could write a hit record and maybe make a lot of money, or you could express an important idea about something you feel strongly about. Sadly, the two rarely go together. The government drones on get vaccinated, get vaccinated, next slide please. There are more imaginative ways of making messages, like this video I made this week called "Storm Warning". The quotes in it are all authentic, the voices and sounds are all synthetic. I hope you find it interesting. Feel free to share it.
You are artists. You have a voice. Don't make New Year resolutions. Make a statement instead.