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Catching a concert amid the pandemic

Concerts big and small have been canceled because of the coronavirus. Many students have been affected by these changes, and are finding socially-distanced alternatives while they wait for live music to return.

Sophomore Jenna Kull had a summer season pass to Blossom Music Center in Cleveland before all 15 of the venue’s live shows were canceled or rescheduled.

“I knew it was coming but it was still pretty disappointing,” Kull said.

However, Kull said she made up for her refunded tickets by attending virtual performances from The Grand Ole Opry, a popular country music venue in Tennessee she attended when she was younger.

The venue hosts virtual music events every Saturday night. Kull said the performances try to make you feel as if you were there in-person.

“There were commercial breaks and the hosts told jokes as if there was a crowd,” she said.  “The energy of the performances were immaculate and I could feel it through my screen,” she said.

While she loved her summer Saturday night routine, Kull said it’s still hard to compare to her previous in-person concerts.

“It is really not the same when you’re jumping around and dancing to live music in your bedroom,” she said.

Senior Spencer Walsh said remote shows are a great way for artists to interact with their fans while socially distant.

“It was like everyone got a front row seat,” he said.

Walsh, who saw Australian comedian and musician Tim Minchin, said it was a cool experience because without the virtual show, he wouldn’t have seen him perform.

“I got to see artists I really admire without having to do the work of going there and paying for other expenses,” he said.

He said he was able to connect with other concert-goers while online, because of the comment sections at the virtual shows. This is a space where viewers can give an opinion, suggestion or random thought as they watch the performance.

“It is crazy how vulnerable people were able to be in that space,” Walsh said. “It made me feel really close to strangers.”

Walsh said that while he knows in-person concerts are not gone forever, he is excited for the potential that virtual concerts have with connecting to other people with his similar interests.

Relationship-building at a concert is junior Ashley Curtis’ favorite part of live events. Curtis, who said she has been going to concerts since she was in elementary school, is skeptical when it comes to connections during virtual performances. Curtis said she has gotten closer to many people through different concert experiences.

“I don’t think virtual or distant concerts would be anything like actual concerts,” Curtis said. “I think the reason college students enjoy concerts so much is because of the memories that can be made right next to the people who you are there with.”

Kull agrees and says that in-person concerts are the best way to build connections with the people in her life. While Kull is excited for concerts to start back up again, she hopes concert venues take their time creating the right protocols to keep everyone safe.

“It (concerts) will have to be completely different,” Kull said. “It is hard to believe that before this year I was totally fine with being shoulder-to-shoulder with random strangers.”

As of right now, concerts at bigger venues are getting rescheduled as soon as April and May 2021. Ian Bixler, the Director of Event Services at Huntington Center, Toledo’s largest concert venue, said there is no way to know these dates for sure.

“I am willing to do anything and everything that we need to do on our side of things to make it safe for people to come in,” he said.

Bixler said he knows he isn’t the only one ready to go back to live music and wants everyone to know it will happen eventually.

“I am just keeping my fingers crossed at this point and hoping for the best,” Bixler said.

Wearing masks, sanitizing seats, social distancing and adding plexiglass to the concession stands are all things Bixler said will have to take place in order to make live music happen again.

“We are taking it one day at a time, even more so than before,” he said. “You never know what the next day or even next week is going to bring.”

In the meantime, artists have been performing at empty concert venues, studios or even their living rooms to hold their audience over until in-person concerts can return.

The closest thing to an in-person concert, drive-in movie theater performances, gained popularity at the end of the summer. Snoop Dogg, Keith Urban and AJR are a few artists who took part in this concert method.

Guests were separated by parking spots and required to stay in their designated area during the show with a few exceptions like concessions and restrooms.

Freshman Grace Gummer went to a drive-in concert in Kenton, Ohio, at the beginning of the semester to see Christian rock artist Toby Mac.

“It’s hard comparing that concert to past concerts I’ve experienced,” Gummer said. “Instead of focusing on the music and having fun, we were focused on safety and our distance from others.”

However, Gummer said this didn’t stop her and her friends from having a good time.

“It was still really cool to be able to come together with people during this time and celebrate the same music, even if it was a little different,” she said.

Audiences aren’t the only ones who notice a difference with socially-distant performances. Sophomore Ethan Timms is a member of a Zanesville-based rock-trio called Crimson Wavelength. He said the band offered one online performance and it wasn’t even close to an in-person show.

“We only did one live-stream,” Timms said. “We couldn’t really play with the same energy that we usually do because we can’t see people can’t get up and dance or anything like that.”

Timms said COVID-19 had a huge effect on smaller artists. Crimson Wavelength had to stop a majority of the shows on their summer tour of Ohio, but they were able to perform a few times outside where people could spread out.

“We were extremely disappointed to cancel so many shows,” he said. “They make us money and they’re great opportunities to make new fans.”

Also, the band was in the process of recording an album but had to put that on hold when the studio shut down due to the pandemic.

Timms said he is hopeful about the band’s future and is using this unprecedented time as a learning curve.

“The pandemic has just helped me appreciate live music,” Timms said. “I still wish it wouldn’t have happened, but I definitely will never take for granted the ability to have live shows again.”

During the pandemic some bigger name artists have put their experience to music.

OneRepublic, Luke Combs and Twenty-One Pilots are just a few of the popular artists who released songs about their quarantine experiences.

Freshman and Drive-in concert-goer Grace Gummer said she enjoys all of these songs, but her favorite is “Six Feet Apart” by Luke Combs.

Gummer said she feels like she can relate better to songs when they have to do with something going on in her life.

“I think a lot of people can say this year has majorly affected them and when I heard the song, I almost got emotional,” she said.

The lyrics toward the end of Combs’ song are “There’ll be crowds and there’ll be shows and there will be a light after dark, someday when we aren’t six feet apart.”

Gummer said, “After this crazy year, it is good to have something like this that gives us encouragement for the better days and maybe even the regular concerts ahead.”

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