(Every day since we started to self-isolate in March 2020, I’ve been keeping a log. I might put it all out there at some point; some extracts have been appeared online already, courtesy of various publishers. For now, here’s my entry for April 7th, 2021.)
When we first had to do everything online, weren’t we all ‘Yeah, this is great! When this Covid business is over, I’m sticking with Zoom! No office meetings, travel and all the other hassle for me!’ But now, it’s ‘Oh no, not another virtual event…’
So it was without much enthusiasm that I logged on last night to a livestream by the Welsh band Calan. I made the effort for a couple of reasons – one, they were one of the last groups I saw live before lockdown when they played a barnstorming gig at our very own local David Hall, and the other, bizarrely I saw an article in the weekend papers a while back where one of their musicians, Bethan, was explaining how tough lockdown was for performers, especially financially. So I magnanimously decided to part with some of the not-so-hard-earned dollars in my Paypal account (games on my phone – don’t tell anybody).
It was a very good call. The concert was quite possibly the best thing I’ve seen online. Calan had really nailed the technical aspects and the sound quality was amazing. How to describe their music? Well, they’d probably murder me for my interpretation, but I’d say it was very energetic Celtic folk-rock. During lockdown, my other half’s been doing loads of ancestry-dot-com stuff, and has discovered I’m heavily Irish, so maybe that helps explain my penchant for it.
The band are all done up in their finest despite the virtual-ity of the occasion and there’s not a bad hair day between them, quite impressive in the circs. They have arranged themselves in a socially-distanced hexagon facing each other, each in their own ‘room’, which they’ve decorated according to individual taste.
Angharad’s (fiddle) domain is a ‘Swansea party house’ replete with parrot and Cinderella’s poster, Bethan’s (accordion) is a heartfelt recreation of her nan’s parlour all set for afternoon tea, ‘ty’ cosy and all, while Sam (guitar) has morphed his man-cave music studio into his corner. Patrick’s (fiddle again) is a tribute to his much-missed mountain homeland, and emergency replacement Gwen (who’s stepped in at the last minute after Shelley the harp player had to self-isolate) has unfortunately had no time to decorate!
There’s a chatbox too onscreen so we the audience can join in; people do, from all over the world, in Welsh and English. As the event’s going out as-live rather than actually live, the performers can join the chat too, which works nicely. The concert manages to be both universal and intimate, quite some achievement.
When we saw Calan live in Somerset back in another dimension, at the interval Bethan came down into the audience like an ice-cream seller hawking the band’s CDs, and of course we bought one. She clearly can’t do that now, but her other USP was a virtuoso display of step dancing, and by the end of the concert the chatbox is alive with keyboard warriors desperate to see her in action.
She doesn’t disappoint, and gives an enthusiastic and effervescent performance, perhaps releasing some Covid-pent-up energy. You wouldn’t think clog shoes could be cool, but Bethan manages to make hers so; I suspect the metallic pattern on her treads is her own handiwork.
And so Calan clogged, cavorted and careened to a final crescendo; all in all, about as much fun as you can have in lockdown.
The good news is, if you too want to escape Covid containment with them, you still can – the concert is available online at mandolin.com Calan – Mandolin Box Office until April 16th.
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