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What It's Like to See a Concert in 2021

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

Live music is an incredible way to bring people together. Background, race, financial status...none of those things matter at a concert. If you’re there, it means you’re a fan, a part of something bigger than who’s who. You can go alone or with a group of friends, and it won’t matter once the music starts. Everyone in the crowd is one. These are all parts of live music that I consider facts. Being without concerts was like taking part of my identity away. It took a little over a year, but that’s why I’m happy to see that concerts are finally starting to return! As they continue to come back, I wanted to talk about my experiences of what going to a live show is like post-lockdown (I can’t say post-pandemic as we’re still, unfortunately, fighting variants). So, what’s changed? What’s stayed the same? Let’s dive in.

When tours started getting announced once more, I was a little cautious. It still felt a little too soon. Vaccines were more readily available for all age groups, but I felt that the overall vaccination rate was too low. I feared that tours would have to shut down right as they began. The music industry had these same concerns. They knew they couldn’t survive another massive shutdown like they had in 2020. Bands, venues, and crews could not lose that income. Not again. So, new requirements went into place.

Before I go further, I want to talk about the few concerts I went to before restrictions went into effect. My first concert back was on July 17, 2021, to see 3 Doors Down and Seether, rock artists. I had a knot in my stomach the day of the show. I couldn’t believe that after a year and a half, I was finally back at a concert. We had seats in the front row of the final section of the covered pavilion, but we could see great. As I watched the crowd moving around to their seats, it was one of the first times things started to feel normal again. If I didn’t think about it too hard, I could pretend it was a world where the pandemic never happened. People treated it as such too. There was still a general admission pit, people were still seated next to strangers, and no one was required to wear a mask.

When Seether came on stage and launched into their first song, I felt emotionally overwhelmed. Everyone was cheering, people were raising their hands up, and the bass was reverberating over the pavilion. It felt like coming back to an old friend after being torn apart from them. It felt like home. I couldn’t stop smiling.

The following two shows I attended after this one went about the same way, with little restrictions, and it seemed like maybe it could stay that way. Then the Delta variant became more of a problem. Its ability to transfer between non-vaccinated people, and even unknowingly through vaccinated people became a growing issue. The country had reached a standstill where everyone who wanted to get vaccinated had done so, and those who chose not to weren’t budging. So, now, the virus has mutated and continued to spread. Some states brought out mask mandates once more. Others required vaccinations in certain spaces. Bands that had booked festival slots or full tours were pulling out, deciding it was too soon to play and put themselves and others at risk. Other artists pressed on, keeping an eye on themselves and their crew members. Bands like Limp Bizkit decided to cancel all 2021 tour dates they had and wait until 2022. Rock group Korn had to pause their tour after their singer and few members of their crew caught the virus.

With concerts being such a huge event where hundreds to thousands of people get together in one place, it was a potential place to super spread the virus, and it seemed it was happening within the bands too. But as I said, the music industry couldn’t shut down again. It just wasn’t feasible. So, new requirements were put in place.

Not every venue decided to set up new requirements, but many large companies that own hundreds of venues across the country (one big one being AEG Entertainment) did step up to put restrictions in place, which has helped smaller venues and events to feel comfortable setting boundaries too. Lately, the requirements are as follows.

  • To attend an event, one must show proof of vaccination status (via the physical vaccine card, a photocopy of the card, or a photo) along with a photo ID to prove your card matches your identity.

  • If you have not been vaccinated or cannot prove vaccination status, an attendee can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test that must be from the last 72 (or sooner).

For some venues, it’s these two options, or you cannot attend the concert. No exceptions. I personally think this is a great idea. If people aren’t going to get the vaccination or cannot for health reasons, this is a great way to allow those people to still attend shows in a way that keeps them and others safe. Some fans have voiced their unhappiness with this new rule that venues are putting in place, but I see no other way around it. To keep people from getting sick and from tours having to be canceled again, there has to be a middle ground. Proving you don’t have the virus is the bare minimum. For me personally, I was vaccinated back in the spring, so I had no issue with the requirement. In fact, I felt a little safer knowing the people around me were either vaccinated or had tested negative.

Since this requirement has gone in place, I have attended one show where this new rule has applied. It was the Sad Summer Fest tour. Sadly, one of the bands that were scheduled to play had to pull out the day before because a member of their crew had caught the virus too which devastated a lot of fans. But sadly, for fans, this has become the new normal. We are always holding our breath, waiting to see if a show will actually happen. Thankfully, this one pressed on, allowing the headliner to play just a little longer to offset the missing band.

I went to the Columbus Stop on August 31, 2021, where the venue was checking every single person’s vaccine or negative test proof. It took a little bit longer, but that’s to be expected since it’s a new program and the fact that it’s adding an extra step to the process. Honestly, the venue was pretty efficient about it. They just had another person who was head of the bag check and another who was the ticket scanner employee. It took maybe 10 seconds max for him to look at the photo of my vaccine card and check my ID, and then I was off to bag check.

It’s important to note that this was also my first show back where I was going to be in general admission, meaning no seats. I was going to be in the thick of a crowd. That made me a little nervous. I remembered the days before the virus where I would go into a crowd and get squished up against a person or shoved around as people get excited. I remembered the days of feeling someone else’s sweat on you, having others right up in your space screaming lyrics along with the band. All those things were parts I loved, and now, they all made me uneasy. I decided to bring a mask into the pit. If I felt uncomfortable, or too close to others, I’d throw it on.

This was a great plan until it rained. It poured for two hours straight. This was a rain or shine show, so unless we saw thunder and lightning, the show was going to go on. Luckily, I brought a poncho, but the mask became useless after getting wet. It was then I had another worry. If the crowd didn’t spread the virus, some of us were definitely going to catch a cold now from being in the rain. Thankfully, I didn’t catch one, but I can’t say the same for the ones who didn’t bring a poncho and took the brunt of the storm without any cover.

Once the show started, I did the best I could to keep a little bit of space between me and the people in front of me. At a normal, pre-COVID show, this would have been very difficult, especially since I was close to the barricade. But it seemed this time that people weren’t being as aggressive or pushy as in the past. This could have been because I picked a spot with good people, or maybe people were still being a little cautious and giving a little more space. Whatever the reason, I was happy to not be shoved up against people given the current state of things.

All the bands who played were incredible and visibly buzzing with energy on stage. It’s clear that they missed playing as much as we missed watching them play. It was easy to lose myself in the music and feel like things were going back to normal. Of course, we’re not there yet, but bringing concerts back is one step closer to getting there. I hope venues and artists continue to require vaccination or negative test proof to attend shows, and hopefully, in time, we won’t need any restrictions at all, and we can attend shows freely without the risk of catching the virus. Until then, this is a method that I think is working great and giving us live music in a safe way.

This has been my experience with concerts in a current-pandemic world. What has your experience been like? Have you gone back to a concert? Were there any restrictions? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Written by Kristen Petronio

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