It doesn’t need to be said that the current state of the world has been immeasurably impacted by the pandemic. Of course, many large concerns have been at the forefront of people’s minds during this time; however, it’s impossible to ignore how leisure activities have also changed during the past few months.
Being “social” in 2020 has been limited to activities like socially-distanced picnics and Zoom call happy hours. Of course, more than six months into the pandemic, people’s boundaries and what they are comfortable with doing vary greatly. Some people are already enjoying restaurants reopening for indoor dining and expanding their social “bubbles,” while others may still be wearing masks around everyone who isn’t immediate family.
Personally, one of the things I’ve missed the most this year is being able to attend concerts. In the past six years, I’ve been to over 80 shows – most of which I’ve gone to with friends. Concerts have always been some of the most positive experiences I’ve been able to share with other people. They’re an opportunity to have an intimate experience with a musician you admire, as well as with other fans, countless numbers of which I’ve befriended at shows. Concerts are also an opportunity to let go of any stress in your life even if just for a few hours, and they have always been something to look forward to. The connection to live music and the community of fans that support live music has been a constant during my entire young adulthood, and I’ve really felt its loss this year.
Quarantine started with all of my 2020 shows being cancelled. I quickly came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to attend any concerts for an indefinite amount of time. Since then, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by artists’ effort to maintain a connection with fans.
Recently, Halsey released a live album which had originally been recorded at a 2019 concert. The album is a live recording of her debut album, Badlands, but with all of the energy and excitement of her concerts. Listening to it with headphones on and my eyes closed truly brings me back to one of her shows. I think this was her exact intention in releasing it at a time when many people are missing live music.
Some artists, including one of my personal favorite bands, The Front Bottoms, have announced drive-in shows as an alternative to concerts in 2020. I chose not to go to their local drive-in concert (although I really wanted to) out of concern for my health and safety. Although I didn’t hear about any controversy towards The Front Bottoms’ show in particular, other drive-in concerts have been met with some backlash, as fans aren’t taking necessary precautions once they arrive. While fans are invited to step outside their vehicles, they are encouraged to stay within their “space” in the parking lots; however, in some cases, fans have gathered closer to the stage in large groups.
A more quarantine-friendly approach to bringing live music back in 2020 has been the introduction of virtual concerts. Many artists have been announcing livestreams, where fans pay for tickets to “attend” shows that are limited to a certain number of viewers. Many people wouldn’t spend money to view such livestreams; however, as someone who has been missing concerts and wants to support my favorite artists during a time when their touring income has come to a halt, I’ve been really excited about this alternative.
This past weekend, I watched Vance Joy’s live performance from his house through Zoom, along with around 750 people from across the country. It was such a positive and intimate experience with Vance taking breaks after each song to directly interact with fans on camera and answer our questions. The chat was also very lively with fans continuously sharing how excited they were to share the experience together. It was clear how badly everyone had been needing a break from reality. In this way, it felt even more personal than a traditional concert.
While many tours have been postponed until 2021, it is unclear whether or not it’ll be safe to have gatherings that large within the next year. Until concerts can resume safely, I’m perfectly content with these new options. I’m excited to see how they can continue to connect artists with their fanbases, perhaps even more than ever before.