Dancing on My Own: Livestreams During Covid-19

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At a time when clubs are closed and DJs have no choice but to play in their living rooms like the good old days, artists are using livestreams to respond to COVID-19.

The nature of COVID-19 means that group gatherings are off-limits. A virus that thrives under close contact and warrants a 2m distance between individuals therefore intrinsically prevents clubbing and nightlife, which favour sweaty and intimate gatherings of large groups of people. With the government-imposed lockdown in action, the future of clubbing is unknown, but for now, clubs have closed their doors and festivals have been cancelled or postponed.

In the meantime, DJs and promoters across the world have been attempting to compensate for the lack of parties by broadcasting mixes live from their homes to yours. By recording themselves mixing records and broadcasting in real time via Facebook Live, Twitch or Instagram, DJs are encouraging people to get locked under lockdown. Unsurprisingly, the livestreams lack the energy of dancing alongside your friends, as well as the sound quality of the club, but they seek to uphold a key element of the culture: the sense of community. Recorded from their homes without the usual accompaniments of heavy lighting and rowdy crowds, these live DJ sets are strangely intimate, despite the circumstances. 

International music broadcasting platform Boiler Room has been leading the way with its new series ‘Streaming from Isolation’. Usually recording in public spaces and famous for its highly-visible crowds, Boiler Room has now teamed up with a selection of renowned DJs to broadcast music live from the comfort of their homes. To kick-start the series, The Black Madonna offered two hours of uplifting house and disco from her kitchen in London. Highlights since include Helena Hauff, who provided an hour of menacing techno from her apartment, and Four Tet, who broadcasted an array of floaty, beautiful sounds from his set-up in an unknown woodlands location. Each episode raises money for a different charity, encouraging viewers to redirect their vodka-and-coke funds to a good cause.

Closer to home, music-heads across Leeds have also taken to streaming platforms to broadcast sets for their friends and newsfeeds. DJ and turntablist NikNak recently took to Instagram with a mix of dubstep, jungle and bashment. Though performing in such a way was unusual for NikNak, the interaction from viewers boosted her morale. Rufus, one half of Baba&Ganoush, experienced a similar sense of connection when he reached out to friends from Leeds, Spain and America during his two-hour livestream DJ set. Rufus recognises the importance of staying connected in a time like this: “There’s a lot of strengths to gain from us being in our own company and working on ourselves, but for some this isn’t an easy task, and it’s a time that people can use great creativity to keep the world together with the aid of technology”. “If my music can keep just one person looking forward to the future and what it will be like to step out that front door and onto the dance floors freely then I’ve done my bit!”.

Until we’re reunited in the dark and smoky depths of the club once more, livestreamed DJ sets are encouraging us to stay connected whilst self-isolating. 

Safi Bugel