Concern over concert comeback

Photograph: Unsplash

Social distancing regulations at live shows in Europe are a turn-off for young artists and concertgoers.

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, most tours and festivals in Europe were canceled in 2020. Some venues were able to reopen their doors to smaller events beginning in July while observing social distancing rules. These include that no standing tickets are available and often only members of the same household may sit together.

In the past two weeks multiple artists, including bands The Hunna and Little Mix, have announced their tour dates for 2021 after having to cancel their shows this year. Concertgoers, however, have reservations about these gigs given the current regulations, which show no signs of easing up any time soon given the global rise in coronavirus cases.

Many concerts, especially those attracting younger audiences, thrive on the lively atmosphere created by a dancing crowd. “It’s really taking the energy and the life from the show. I wouldn’t go to a show like that,” says Finn Strijker, a first-year psychology student at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, about these new rules. He had planned to attend the Dutch hip-hop festival WOO HAH! this summer to see his favourite artist Kendrick Lamar perform and was very upset by its cancelation. 

Venues are doing everything they can to ensure the safety of audience members and artists while remaining open. Peter Weening, who is in charge of booking events at Groningen concert venue Vera, explained that most tickets are sold online in advance to limit contact. Customers can choose to sit together in duo seats or alone in single seats. When asked about the widely accepted rule that only members from the same household can sit together, he said, “that’s your own responsibility,” and that the venue can’t check everything. Most shows sell out online, but there is a much lower capacity as a result of social distancing, and there are currently no hip-hop or other high-energy shows planned.

Artists themselves are concerned about the quality of the concerts they will be performing given the restrictions. “As a jazz rock band, getting people to dance is a huge draw for our audience,” says Sam Dimond, bass player of the British band The Imaginary Hat. The band performed their last gig in March and have not planned any future gigs yet. “I would feel comfortable, but our singer is still nervous about doing gigs,” Dimond says.

Europe has a large, varied music scene where many small artists get discovered, and it’s a shame for regular concertgoers like Finn Strijker that this will be brought to a bit of a halt as a result of social distancing.

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