Pandemic Blues, The Disconcerting New Concert Experience
Rock hero Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, has described live music performances during the COVID-19 lockdowns as: "unflattering little windows that look like doorbell security footage and sound like Neil Armstrong's distorted transmissions from the moon."
One month later, in some corners of the world, authentic, in-person live music is ready to take the stage again — though with some caveats.
In New Zealand, which this week proudly announced it has no active coronavirus cases, a major concert series Good Vibes 2020 has confirmed its August dates, the New Zealand Herald reported Tuesday.
An earlier event, The Together Again series of small concerts, said attendees would have their body temperature screened and participate in contact tracing.
The Czech Republic, which has managed to keep coronavirus infections among the lowest in Europe, announced Tuesday that events for up to 500 people will now be permitted. If the situation remains favorable, the health minister promised to increase the limit to 1,000 on June 22. "After almost three months of fasting, it is time to return music to Prague," said Michal Filip, owner of Lucerna Music Bar, one of Prague's top music clubs.
That's more like it ... — Photo: Tijs van Leur
Still, many ask about the long-term health of the music industry. Musicians, sound engineers, technicians, promoters and other employees across the globe are losing their jobs due to cancelled cultural events. In the Czech Republic, 250 music clubs are currently on the verge of closing for good.
Indeed, the experience might not be the same as we have known it in pre-coronavirus times. Fears will linger of attending concerts in closely packed indoor venues. Lucerna Music Bar, for example, plans to relocate its music stage to a forest park in Prague, while operators of the club Fléda in the city of Brno are preparing a series of open-air concerts in the courtyard of the medieval Špilberk Castle.
Though it may make for a special summer of outdoor events, the true test may be in the autumn, when the weather turns colder.
Here's Grohl, who is as much a fan as a producer of live music: "I've been lifted and carried to the stage by total strangers for a glorious swan dive back into their sweaty embrace. Arm in arm, I have sung at the top of my lungs with people I may never see again. All to celebrate and share the tangible, communal power of music."
Yes, live rock concerts, the way they're meant to be, are the very opposite of social distancing. Even in countries like New Zealand and the Czech Republic that have been largely spared the worst of coronavirus, that "tangible" power may take time to return.