Whether it's drive-in shows, socially distanced gigs or immersive experiences, live entertainment is adapting.
“We can hold public events without limitations,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rejoiced earlier this week, announcing the current eradication of the coronavirus in her country. The statement came 17 days after the last new case was reported, and on the day when the final known infected person was given the all clear. For New Zealand at least, live entertainment is well and truly back.
Elsewhere across the globe, countries are quickly adapting to the safety measures encouraged by the health advisors. At the time of writing, the UK continues to reiterate the importance of a two metre distance between households at all times, and a necessity for all gatherings to not exceed six people and to remain outside.
These guidelines have seen the rapid re-emergence of the stateside staple, the drive in. The likes of Car Park Party and The Troubadour Drive In are adapting the live experience with fan safety firmly at the forefront of their minds. Designated viewing spots, two meters away from other households, will ensure social distancing is upheld, while full stage and screen production look set to retain the electric atmosphere only a live event can provide.
“Drive-ins seem to be the right answer to the current situation,” Michael Brill, CEO of Germany’s D.Live recently told IQ, celebrating the heady mix of safety and excitement. After some initial concern that the idea might not prove popular, the series of live concerts held in Düsseldorf have attracted over 40000 visitors in the first month alone. Their popularity has been matched across the globe. The number of drive in events scheduled to take place across the United States is rapidly rising; no mean feat considering each State have their own rules when it comes to keeping safe.
“We’re going to get people back together and we’re going to give them an amazing night”
The UK is looking further afield too. With drive in events set to dominate throughout the summer, promoters and event planners are looking at additional ways to ensure fans have something to look forward to come the darker months. One Night Records have launched Lockdown Town, boasting to be the first socially distant immersive experience of its kind. With complementary masks, increased ventilation, no communal areas, suitable washing facilities, multiple hand sanitiser stations, and much more, it’s looking at ways to keep audiences safe in a country that may not be in a position to fully ease restrictions as quickly as New Zealand.
“We’re going to do it safely, but we’re going to get people back together and we’re going to give them an amazing night,” says Tim Wilson, Managing Director of One Night Records, ready to prove that entertainment and COVID-19 can co-exist if they have to.
Back in New Zealand, live events had already adopted social distancing measures to bring entertainment back to the stage. In a move that the UK are hoping to follow, easing of lockdown restrictions allowed fans could return to indoor venues. The Tuning Fork in Auckland hosted one of the world’s first indoor live events following the global outbreak of the coronavirus. Fans complied with temperature screening on entry, with the shows in part possible due to a robust contract tracing system. The venue’s capacity was also temporarily reduced to 100 to ensure a safe distance between the audience.
“Music is music. It doesn’t matter when or where that stage is, it’s the same little home”
On 29 May 2020, the Together Again concerts welcomed soul singer Hollie Smith, becoming one of the first artists across the globe to perform live and in person. “I honestly hadn’t really thought of it on that kind of level but it makes me sound super important so I’ll take it,” Hollie says of the surprise accolade. “We were only in full lock down for five to six weeks, so to be fair the weirdest bit was on week one, putting away my suitcase for the first time…. like ever.”
Despite the unusual safety measures, including designated servers and ordering food and drink through a specifically designed app, it didn’t take long for things to settle into place. “It had a great vibe,” Hollie recalls. “I talked more than normal, we shared lots of laughter and banter; really attentive and responsive.”
Hollie arrived on stage without any preconceptions. Any nerves were put down to the intimacy of the performance over the social distancing measures. “I was performing new material that’s just bones and I’m normally with a band,” she notes, “although, as if by magic, after a wine I felt much better.”
“Music is music,” she continues. “It doesn’t matter when or where that stage is, it’s the same little home. Just remember that people are sensitive on many levels at the minute so if you like breaking boundaries then try not break anyone. Some people are not feeling as comfortable in public and are trying to get used to these new norms.”
Globally, Hollie is as optimistic about the future as she is about performing within current restrictions. “I was supposed to record my new s**t in April, which was postponed obviously, so when I manage to get back in and release this sucker I am very much hoping I will be able to share it with the world… Physically and in real life human.”
And it certainly looks promising. The artists, promoters and event teams behind live entertainment are already looking at new and innovative ways to bring the magic to fans during this difficult time, and the level of creativity appears to be higher than ever. Whatever the near future may hold for socialising – both here in the UK and across the globe – countless people are dedicated to keep live entertainment at the forefront. So whether it’s drive in shows, socially distant immersive events, virtual live streams, carefully planned indoor gigs, or something entirely new, live entertainment is here to stay.
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