Northern Ireland Disappointed in Van Morrison, Minister Says

The health minister of Van Morrison’s native Northern Ireland reacted to the singer’s plans to release three coronavirus protest songs, saying the nation was disappointed in him.

Morrison revealed last week that he had recorded tracks with lyrics that called government authorities “fascist bullies” who were “making up crooked facts” to “enslave” the population. Northern Ireland recently tightened social-distancing restrictions in a bid to head off a predicted second wave of COVID-19 infections in the coming month.

“We in Northern Ireland are very proud of the fact that one of the greatest music legends of the past 50 years comes from our part of the world,” minister Robin Swann told Rolling Stone. “So there’s a real feeling of disappointment – we expected better from him. However, it goes further than disappointment. Some of what is he saying is actually dangerous. It could encourage people to not to take coronavirus seriously. If you see it all as a big conspiracy, then you are less likely to follow the vital public health advice that keeps you and others safe.”

Swann noted that, while it’s “legitimate to ask if the right balance is being found in what is being done,” Morrison was “going way beyond raising questions. … It’s actually a smear on all those involved in the public health response to a virus that has taken lives on a massive scale. His words will give great comfort to the conspiracy theorists – the tin foil-hat brigade who crusade against masks and vaccines and think this is all a huge global plot to remove freedoms.”

He quoted Morrison as having recently said, “I’m apolitical. I’ve got nothing to say about politics whatsoever” and argued that, if the singer wanted to become political, he could have chosen a wide range of topics to sing about. “Instead, he’s chosen to attack attempts to protect the old and vulnerable in our society. It’s all bizarre and irresponsible. I only hope no one takes him seriously. He’s no guru, no teacher.”

Meanwhile, alt-country singer-songwriter Jason Isbell revealed his own disappointment in Morrison before covering the veteran’s classic song “Into the Mystic.” Isbell said on the streaming show I So Lounging, “There was a time in the past when our dear Van Morrison had such beautiful music, such beautiful songs, that everyone paid attention to him. Now that that time has passed. … Now he likes to say things like, ‘The government asking you to not give everyone the COVID-19 virus is akin to slavery.’ I disagree with that statement very much.”

Isbell said he was going to perform “Into the Mystic” “in remembrance of when Van was merely not nice and wasn’t public about his denial of science. … I don’t know that this [mask] will protect me from the virus – but I’d like for it to protect me from Van.” You can watch the performance below.

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Van Morrison Will Release 3 Lockdown Protest Songs

Van Morrison has announced plans to release three songs that argue against coronavirus lockdown measures, alleging that authorities are using the pandemic as an excuse to restrict liberties without any real reason.

He previously spoke out against emergency laws that have shut down the live entertainment industry, saying he only agreed to perform some socially distanced shows in order to keep his band working. Morrison described the thought processes behind these health measures as “pseudo-science.”

His new songs will be released one by one over the coming weeks: “Born to Be Free” will be the first, followed by “No More Lockdown” and “As I Walked Out.” Lyrics include: “The new normal is not normal. … Don’t need the government cramping my style. Give them an inch, they take a mile”; “no more fascist bullies disturbing our peace”; and “well, on the government website from the 21st March 2020, it said COVID-19 was no longer high risk. Then two days later, they put us under lockdown.”

The BBC reported that Van Morrison used his new music to allege that authorities were “making up crooked facts” to “enslave” the population. “I’m not telling people what to do or think. The government is doing a great job of that already,” Morrison says in an official statement. “It’s about freedom of choice. I believe people should have the right to think for themselves.”

The U.K. has seen a notable increase in coronavirus infections recently, with quarantines initiated in a number of areas across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly considering another brief national lockdown in a bid to prevent a sharp increase of deaths this fall.

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Steve Vai, Joe Satriani to Appear at ‘Six String Salute’ Benefit

An assembly of rock’s biggest guitarists will come together for Six String Salute, a virtual concert to support touring and venue crew who have had their lives turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve Vai, Tommy Shaw of Styx, the Black CrowesRich Robinson, Joe Satriani and former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett are just some of the many artists set to appear. Additional rockers include members of Whitesnake, Tesla, Kansas, Alice Cooper and Night Ranger.

The event takes place Thursday and will stream on Live Nation’s “Live From Home” YouTube channel beginning at 8PM ET. An encore screening will follow at 8PM on Sept. 18 via the Six String Salute Facebook page.

In a post to Twitter, Vai said he was “proud to be part of this benefit show to help out all of the amazing crew folks in the music industry.” Satriani echoed similar sentiments in a tweet of his own, saying he was “happy to participate” in the event to “support the crews who are the backbone of live music.”

In addition to performances, the event promises “great rock ‘n’ roll stories” from an assortment of bands and crew members. All proceeds from Six String Salute will benefit Crew Nation, a fund established to help support live-music crews around the world whose livelihoods have been directly impacted as a result of COVID-19.

The pandemic has ravaged the touring industry, bringing the majority of concerts and events to a halt. Live Nation saw its revenue drop 98 percent in the second quarter of 2020, while independent music venues continue struggling for survival.

Additionally, a study out of England suggested that most musicians were considering quitting the industry entirely due to the financial strife brought on by the coronavirus.

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Most Musicians Are Thinking of Quitting, Survey Says

Approximately 64 percent of professional musicians are thinking of quitting music as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey suggested.

The investigation, carried out by British booking organization Encore Musicians, concluded that artists had lost an average of $15,000 in income each and had an average of five concerts scheduled for the rest of 2020.

“The results show that due to widespread event cancellations, musicians have lost an average of 87 percent of their live bookings, and with them their main source of income,” Encore said. The report noted that the survey crossed all genres of music and that more than four-fifths of respondents could be considered professional musicians who make a living from their art.

Four in 10 had no bookings at all for the rest of the year, and a similar number had received no financial support from the British Government. A slightly greater number had been helped by the non-government bodies. As a result of these challenges, four in 10 musicians have applied for a non-music job since lockdown measures began in March. The results were said to point toward “a significant contraction of the U.K. music industry, which contributes $5.2 billion annually to the U.K. economy and employs nearly 200,000 people.”

“We’re acutely aware of the damage the pandemic has done to our musicians’ livelihoods, but I was still shocked to see just how few bookings most musicians have left in the diary for 2020,” Encore CEO James McAulay commented. “This problem is being felt across the industry – from signed veterans to young musicians at the beginning of their careers. The government must act now to make sure our musicians aren’t left behind.”

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Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh Recalls ‘Very Dark’ COVID-19 Delusions

Mark Mothersbaugh experienced “very dark” delusions while hospitalized due to COVID-19.

The Devo frontman detailed his harrowing experience during a conversation with the Los Angeles Times.

“There’s a bookstore I love (in Los Angeles) where I get stationery supplies, and in my mind I had been there,” the 70 year-old rocker recalled. “I was convinced for about two weeks that I had been hit by a brick by somebody in Little Tokyo.”

In Mothersbaugh’s mind, he had been the victim of a vicious attack. His hallucinations even created a backstory surrounding the fictitious event. “I felt blood from being hit. I was handcuffed to a parking deck downtown. I had this whole elaborate story of how these kids sold me to an ambulance company that then got some sort of a payment for delivering COVID patients to their ICUs,” the singer envisioned. “I totally believed it.”

In actuality, the Devo frontman was connected to a ventilator and fighting for his life.

It was June when Mothersbaugh came down with a 103 degree fever and, at the insistence of a nurse, called an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

“It went from, ‘I don’t feel good’ on Tuesday to an ambulance to Cedars on Saturday,” revealed the rocker’s wife, Anita Greenspan. “It was terrifying.”

For 18 days, Mothersbaugh was isolated in his ICU bed at Cedars-Sinai hospital, drifting in and out of consciousness. While a ventilator helped him breathe, various other machines tracked his vital signs. The musician’s family braced for the worst, while his only interactions with loved ones came via video chat. At other points, the virus took his mind to strange places.

“Some of the delusions were very dark,” Mothersbaugh recalled. “Like, ‘Oh no, I have to get out of this place.’”

“I just felt exhausted,” the rocker continued. “Like, ‘I could just float down this river right now, and it would be really peaceful. It wouldn’t be a freak-out. It wouldn’t be something I’d be scared of. I could really just do that.’ I really thought about it.”

Mothersbaugh also hallucinated working with his band. “I wrote a whole new Devo album and put together a whole live show,” the singer explained, adding that he even envisioned a live show that utilized augmented reality. “We were standing on top of these projections, which were growing somehow.”

Nearly two months after being discharged from the hospital, Mothersbaugh is still feeling the virus’ effects. He has “a little thing with (his) nerves” which causes tremors and an overall “creepy” physical state.

“Before COVID, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m starting to feel about 50 now, and I’m 70.’ When I was in the hospital, I was feeling like I was about 90. And now I’m back to 70, and I’m trying to get back to 50. That’s my goal.”

Mothersbaugh wants doubters to know that the coronavirus is real and needs to be taken seriously. He further stressed the importance of staying connected to those battling the disease.

“If you have anyone that you know who’s in ICU with COVID, contact them and keep them in touch with the outside world, because it’s easy to lose track of where you are and why you are,” the rocker explained. “I had no idea I was on a ventilator for 10 days. Time meant nothing.”

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Bryan Adams’ German Arena Concert Postponed

A German arena concert featuring Bryan Adams was postponed after a spike in coronavirus infections across Europe.

The show, titled Give Live a Chance, was set to take place Sept. 4 in Dusseldorf, with an audience capacity of 12,000, pared down from 66,000.

However, organizers Live Nation announced that the concert would be rescheduled for later in the year after German authorities extended their ban on large public events. “In this situation, encouraging people from all over Germany to travel across the country to Dusseldorf and come together by the thousands is simply irresponsible,” health minister Karl-Josef Laumann told Billboard.

“Despite a comprehensive health, hygiene, and safety program, organizers felt compelled to cancel the event in view of the increasing number of infections and subsequent capacity restrictions that were imposed on the event,” a statement from the arena said. Announcing his participation, Adams had told fans that he’d be “playing acoustically on my own… no band,” presumably as part of social distancing requirements.

In May, Adams wrote an angry message to the person responsible for the virus being transferred from animals to humans. He was set to commence a run of U.K. shows, which, like all other live events, had been canceled. “Tonight was supposed to be the beginning of a tenancy of gigs at the Royal Albert Hall,” he wrote, “but thanks to some fucking bat-eating, wet market animal-selling, virus-making greedy bastards, the whole world is now on hold,” Adams wrote on Instagram. “My message to them, other than ‘thanks a fucking lot,’ is go vegan.” He later apologized for the tone of his message.

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Metallica’s Drive-In Filming Session Was Nearly Canceled

The owner of the winery where Metallica recorded their drive-in concert movie had to keep the filming session secret for fear of being ordered to cancel it.

Jeff Bundschu, CEO of the Gundlach Bundschu estate in Sonoma County, CA., called off a social distanced performance by Chris Robinson after pressure from local officials, and worried that the same would happen to Metallica.

“[The County Supervisor] was concerned the optics set a bad precedent and I freaked,” Bundschu told the Sonoma News. “If that little show was an issue, what would people think if they got wind of Metallica? I did not want to become the posterchild of COVID carelessness.”

To ensure the filming went ahead safely, he and his family went through four separate virus tests in the days leading up to Metallica’s arrival on Aug. 8. The band themselves quarantined at home while their crew spent a week locked in a nearby hotel. All winery staff were sent home before the trucks drove in and a COVID compliance officer was on hand to protect the health interests of the film crew.

Bundschu said of band members James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo: “Because of COVID, they all hadn’t seen each other in months, and they were so happy to be together, so authentic, doing what they do best. … It really hit me then that this incredible band, with all its history, integrity and scale, was playing its great music right here, on our little knoll, in Sonoma.”

He’d made a connection with the band when one of the management team visited Gundlach Bundschu, where boutique music events have been taking place for a decade. “If anyone in the music industry visits the winery, I always lead the tour,” the CEO said. After the connection resulted in a message from Metallica on July 31, he kept the news to himself for as long as he could before telling other members of the family business.

“I don’t know if it’s fair to say they’re used to me dropping things like this on them, but they were not shocked,” he said. “Nor too wowed to not ask me all the usual questions — ‘What’s our liability? How will we keep this a secret? What are they paying? What’s the upside to us?’” He told them: “Come on! It’s Metallica!”

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James Hetfield Has Been Writing Songs During COVID-19 Lockdown

Metallica‘s James Hetfield says the coronavirus pandemic lockdown has given him the downtime that he needed to compose new songs.

Speaking via Zoom with his band mates on SiriusXM, Hetfield said, “For us, we’re road dogs — we’ve been out on the road forever — so you’re either on the road or you’re writing. So the obvious thing is, ‘Well, we’re not on the road. Start writing.’ So, [I’ve written] tons of material. And I’m sure there’s lots of musicians out there that are just, like, ‘Okay, what can I do? I’m gonna write and just get into that,’ which I love doing.”

Hetfield has been staying at his home in the mountains of Colorado, where he said that COVID-19 “hasn’t really locked us down as much as some other places,” and people can still partake in outdoor activities. It’s given him the opportunity to spend time with his neighbors, which wasn’t always possible because of his band commitments. Welding has also become a big hobby.

“I welded a couple of things for the All Within My Hands foundation,” he continued. “I’ve made some bird feeders. I’m right now staring out the window at about 50 different birds that come up here and eat. That’s kind of my new TV right here. So, just enjoying nature a lot more and enjoying my life the way it is now.”

Tonight, drive-in theaters across the U.S. and Canada will be screening a performance Metallica filmed last month. Cars will be limited to six people, and CDC and local health guidelines regarding gatherings will be enforced. Tickets for the concert include four download codes for S&M2, the album of Metallica’s 2019 concerts with the San Francisco Symphony that was released yesterday.

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COVID-19’s Effect on the Music Industry, Six Months In

It’s been six months since COVID-19 started bringing the music industry to a screeching halt. Even as the virus continues to alter the day-to-day activities of modern society, artists are adapting to their “new normal” amid the ongoing pandemic.

On Feb. 28, Green Day announced that they were postponing their tour of Asia due to the developing coronavirus outbreak. It was mid-March when major concert promoters – including Live Nation and AEG – began suspending events en masse. Many highly anticipated treks – including those by the Rolling Stones, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ozzy Osbourne – were pushed back. By the end of the month, virtually all of the spring and summer tours had been suspended or canceled.

With the touring industry shut down due to the pandemic, musicians turned to online resources as a means for connecting with fans. Guns N’ Roses unveiled a concert-streaming series, while Dave Grohl released a collection of short stories. Other artists noticeably increased their social-media activity, delivering music lessons, performing impromptu covers and even updating fans on the state of their garage.

Fans jonesing for their live music fix were somewhat satiated by the emergence of drive-in concerts. Night Ranger, the Struts and Steel Panther were among the artists to announce drive-in shows, while Metallica scheduled a concert event to be broadcast live to drive-in movie theaters across the country.

The emergence of these alternative styles of concerts was welcomed by struggling music venues, many of which updated their locations to accommodate drive-in performances. Still, the majority of venues lacked the resources needed to host such events, and an alarming amount of facilities have remained on the brink of bankruptcy. A June report indicated that 90 percent of independent music venues in the U.S. could close forever as a result of the pandemic, though the possibility of a government bailout offers a glimmer of hope. Meanwhile, in England a socially distanced concert venue welcomed music fans, utilizing specialized platforms spread throughout an open space to keep attendees safely apart.

Some performances pushed forward in traditional fashion despite warnings regarding social distancing. Great White received backlash after playing a show in North Dakota that skirted COVID-19 precautions such as face masks and social distancing. Meanwhile, neighboring South Dakota hosted the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, featuring performances by more than 30 artists, including Quiet Riot, Molly Hatchet, the Guess Who and 38 Special. Smash Mouth were also on the bill; singer Steve Harwell even declared, “Now, we’re all here together tonight. … Fuck that COVID shit!” during the band’s set.

While most artists put their touring on hold, the coronavirus lockdown gave many bands the chance to work on new material. Sammy Hagar and the Rolling Stones each released COVID-era singles. Metallica are rumored to be working on new material in quarantine, with drummer Lars Ulrich admitting he’s “very excited” about the prospect. Journey, Megadeth, Nine Inch Nails, Alice Cooper and Def Leppard are among the other artists using pandemic stay-at-home time to work on new music.

Musicians also continued to find new and distinctive ways to help those whose lives have been devastated by the pandemic. Everything from at-home performances to special merchandise, archival concerts and even charity singles have help raise funds for various coronavirus-related nonprofits.

Even though U.S. festivals have been canceled in 2020, many – including Lollapalooza and Outside Lands – created online streaming events to bring the thrill of major music fests into fans’ homes. Meanwhile, after initially pushing the induction ceremony to November, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame decided to replace their 2020 event with a special on HBO.

And as the discourse surrounding face masks has continued to be a hot-button topic, many rockers have used their celebrity to sound off. Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider pointedly referred to anti-maskers as “fucking assholes” in a July post to social media, while Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks struck a less aggressive tone, praising those who wear masks as “spiritual warrior[s].”

Although the immediate future remains murky – with major concerts unlikely in 2020 – there are a few positive signs on the horizon. Efforts to create a COVID-19 vaccine continue to progress, with some predicting an approval by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Live Nation reports that advanced sales for 2021 events have been robust, proving that fans will be ready for live music once again, whenever it’s safe to return to concerts.

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