Musicians who emerged during COVID are now shit scared to perform

With live music making its post-lockdown comeback, the industry’s “COVID babies” battle with anxiety as they get on stage for the first time.

The lengthy COVID lockdowns enforced throughout the last couple of years have led to an inevitable surge of bedroom musicians in Australia and beyond.

Having developed a fanbase and risen to a level of success from within the confines of their homes, many of these new up-and-comers are fearfully preparing for their first-ever live performances.

covid babies
Thomas Porter. Credit: Jess Gleeson

“I’m terrified,” says Sydney-based pop musician, Thomas Porter told The Guardian.

Having signed to indie label Dew Process right before the pandemic’s onset, Porter just launched his debut EP, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, on Friday. The collection of tracks includes Wishbone; released as a standalone single in January this year. Fittingly, the song conveys feelings of existentialism and helplessness, but still carries hints of hope. “I made it in my bedroom during the first lockdown,” explains Porter.

As for finally debuting his music on stage, Porter describes his impending show as “flying by the seat of my pants.”  He adds, “There’s been two years of hype at this point. I’ve never performed any of these songs.”

Of course, Porter is not alone in this confronting reality. He’s one of many Aussie talents classified by the industry as “COVID babies.”  

Flowerkid. Credit: Jess Hallay

Take Flowerkid (real name Flynn Sant), for example. Initially discovered via Triple J Unearthed in 2019 thanks to his critically-acclaimed single, boy with the winfields and the wild heart, the Warner Music-signed artist had never been heard live by his fans until just last weekend, during his debut show at Marrickville’s The Great Club.

Despite puking from nerves before his set, Flowerkid had an absolute blast: “As soon as I got out there and started, I was like ‘yep, this is where I’m meant to be’ and I just kept going no matter how many little things I stuffed up,” he says.

First gig jitters are a common rite of passage for emerging artists everywhere, but when you’ve amassed millions of Spotify streams despite having little to no live performance experience, it can be uniquely confronting.

Flowerkid says it feels strange “being online and being recognised as a musician,” but not having the live experience to pair that with. However, now that he’s been announced as part of this year’s Splendour in the Grass line-up, it looks like that will soon be changing.

Flowerkid. Credit: Carly Earl/The Guardian

As we’re dusting off our instruments and facing live crowds once again, a certain amount of nerves are undoubtedly being felt by novice and experienced musicians alike. That being said, if there’s one thing we all share in common, it’s that we love what we do.

We make music for the passion of it,” says Thomas Porter. “There’s really no substitute for having time in front of crowds.”