Desperate times call for desperate measures, apparently. The coronavirus pandemic has essentially ended live music for the time being, at least until epidemiologists deem it OK to once again spend time in crowds of people. That’s changing in certain places where the virus seems to be under control; Björk, for instance, has announced shows in Iceland, and the Beths will soon play a New Zealand club. In America, live music seems to be limited to the odd drive-in concert and to terrifying and ill-advised club shows like the one DaBaby played this past weekend. In the UK, which is having its own problems containing the virus, the promoters at SSD Concerts seem to think they have an answer.
Last week, those promoters announced the existence of Virgin Money Unity Arena, which is set to open this weekend at Newcastle Racecourse in Gosforth Park. The idea is that it’s the world’s first dedicated social-distancing music venue. You can drive your car into the arena without making contact with arena staff, and then your party will be directed to a personal platform that’ll be at least two meters apart from all the other personal platforms. Supposedly, there are plans in place for people to safely buy food and drinks and to use the bathrooms. It sounds really complicated and depressing! But it’s happening! And it’s starting next month!
Today, the venue has announced its first few shows, and the lineup is heavy on longstanding Brit-rock festival-bait. The funk and soul DJ and TV presenter Craig Charles will have the dubious distinction of opening the venue 8/14, and one night later, Two Door Cinema Club will become the first band to play there. The schedule also includes the reunited Supergrass (8/22), the Libertines (8/29), and Maxïmo Park (9/5), as well as singer Tom Grennan and stand-up comics Jason Manford and Bill Bailey. If these shows are going to have opening acts, they haven’t been revealed.
All of this raises one very serious question: If you’re announcing a new venue that’s potentially both depressing and potentially unsafe, are the Libertines really one of the first bands you should call?