About a week ago, I attended my first concert back since the world was rocked by COVID (no pun intended). Below is my experience both from the band and fan perspective.
First, a little background. About six months ago, my wife and I had a baby. Despite being vaccinated, we’ve remained cautious about venturing out into social settings out of fear of catching COVID and infecting our son. So, before this week, concerts were off the menu. If we didn’t have a baby to worry about, my wife and I would enjoy our vaccinated status much more, but alas, this is the world we now find ourselves in.
This concert that I attended was special for me and one that I was willing to make an exception for (with the proper precaution). I first joined the music industry as the drummer for Hawthorne Heights them in addition to our good friends, Bayside, performing in my hometown at Bogart’s (Cincinnati, OH). Even though I routinely chat with my old bandmates and friends, it’s been two years since I’ve seen most of them in-person. I wasn’t going to miss this show….it was time to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
Let’s start from the band experience:
I arrived at the show. First thing I did was meet up with my old bandmates on their bus. Everyone wore masks (even though the bus is their home away from home). We caught up and they explained the tour rules during COVID:
No one hangs out in the dressing rooms.
Everyone isolates on their own bus, except while loading in and soundchecking.
No one goes out to the merch booth to sign autographs.
The isolation part was one of those harsh realities of COVID that I hadn’t considered when attending: I wouldn’t actually get to see some of my friends because they were being (justifiably) cautious. For the remainder of the night, we hung out behind the bus in the parking lot. I was able to catch a couple of the Bayside guys, catch-up with other old friends and meet a couple new ones. Everyone wore masks while social distancing outside. In addition to the health risks of COVID are the very real financial risks that bands have to consider. If you get sick, you can’t perform. If you can’t perform, you don’t make money.
Into the foreseeable future, bands will need to physically separate themselves from fans which places more of an emphasis on artist-to-fan communication tools in-order to maintain (and grow) their relationships with fans. Tixxy helps on this front but allowing artists to send free text messages to their fans (as opposed to other services and social media which charge for this feature).
Now let’s go into the fan experience
This tour required fans to either show proof of vaccine or provide a negative COVID test for entry to the venue. In the event you didn’t bring either with you, Bogart’s had partnered with a local clinic to conduct COVID tests (for a fee) directly outside the venue. I thought this was an awesome idea to ensure a safe environment for everyone in the venue, not to mention protect the entire concert industry. It made me feel more comfortable entering a venue and shaking off some COVID social anxiety.
At the start of October, two of the largest concert promoters: Live Nation and AEG, will no longer leave it up to the individual artists to set COVID protocols for their shows. Live Nation will require proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test for every fan and all employees must be vaccinated. AEG will require proof of vaccination, negative tests aren’t enough. The National Independent Venue Association has published a checklist with up-to-date guidance for venues, re-opening in this COVID landscape.
All of this to say, because of my particular need to remain more cautious, I still wore a mask inside the venue. Many others wore masks as well, but on this particular evening, less than half of the people in the venue were wearing masks. The venue was nearly sold out, so finding a place to stand that was 6 feet away from other people was a challenge as people moved around, but not totally unmanageable. The really encouraging piece to this is that fans clearly want to go to concerts again, which is amazing. This also means that shows might begin to sell out again and if you, as a fan, don’t have your finger on the pulse of the music scene, you’ll miss out. Fortunately, there are services like Tixxy which text you the second your favorite band announces a tour date so you don’t have to worry about missing a show and you become the person in your friend circle that knows about all of the cool shows coming up!
For those that were wondering, the bands put on an awesome show and Cincinnati represented! Ohio is still for lovers ;)
In the end, I had a lot of fun seeing old friends and seeing live music again. If I’m being real, I definitely had some anxiety about attending, but overall felt safe and was pleasantly surprised by the heightened precautions put in place by the tour for entry. I’m looking forward to more events in the near future!