Saturday, December 19, 2020

Annual appraisal

With no gigs to preview or report on, it sadly made little sense for Nightshift to continue to publish during coronatimes. Let's face it - a global pandemic is just about the only thing that would have stopped Ronan from championing the good and savaging the bad. You can't keep a good man down, though, and he couldn't resist bringing the legendary Oxfordshire music mag back this month for its first issue since April to run through the annual Tracks Of The Year list.

He recognised, too, that the end of the year was a good time to take stock and ask many of those involved in the local music scene for their reflections on COVID-19's impact. In the issue, venue managers, festival organisers, studio owners, promoters and retailers talk about the acute challenges they've faced - with the overriding sentiment a desperate hope that live music can return in a financially sustainable way soon. Musicians, meanwhile, speak about how they've coped - the running themes being remote collaborations, scratching the live itch with streamed sets and solo projects that they wouldn't otherwise have had the time or opportunity to pursue.

It's fitting, then, that Young Knives should have scooped the Track Of The Year accolade with 'Sheep Tick', from the bonkers LP Barbarians that I had the pleasure of reviewing for Buzz in September. Brothers Henry and Tom Dartnall have kept themselves busy - and fans entertained - through the year with their splendidly eccentric Caravan Sessions online gigs.

As Ronan says, the list - this year expanded to 30 tracks from the usual 20 - underlines the "one crumb of positivity these last few months - the fact that music is still being made and still being played, albeit remotely. It's something well worth celebrating, as well as a reminder of what we're missing." Here's to the resilience, resourcefulness and creativity of all of those involved in the music scene in Oxfordshire and further afield, and to the hope of better things in 2021 - including Nightshift's permanent return to action.

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