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Will Social Distanced Concerts Become a Reality? A Show in Arkansas May Tell Us.

On the bright side, people will finally stop talking at concerts.
On the bright side, people will finally stop talking at concerts.
Flavio Gasperini/Unsplash

A promoter named Mike Brown is organizing the first of what they hope to be many concerts that comply with social distancing protocols, Bloomberg reports.

Travis McCready, vocalist of Americana band Bishop Gunn, will be Patient Zero for this new experiment, which will take place on May 15 at Fort Smith, Arkansas venue TempleLive. Should this flagship event yield promising results, it's possible that the promoter will resume its curation of nationwide tours, which could make their way to Live Nation-owned Dallas venues such House of Blues, Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory and South Side Ballroom.

For McCready’s show, the promoter is limiting the number of available seats so that fans will remain at least 6 feet apart from each other. The event’s Ticketmaster page states that fans are required to purchase a minimum of four tickets for standard seating, and two for wheelchair accessible seating. These seating increments are what Ticketmaster is referring to as “fan pods.”

As a result of these requirements, the 1,100-capacity venue is reducing its available seating by 80 percent, for a sellable capacity of 229.

Fans in attendance will be required to wear face masks and will get their temperature taken upon arrival. Moreover, all beverages sold at the venue will be prepackaged or lidded to reduce contamination, and a 10-person limit will be enforced in each bathroom, where soap and paper towel dispensers will be touchless.

Even with such restrictions in place, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that indoor concert venues can resume hosting events as early as May 18 which, as Billboard points out, is three days after McCready’s show is scheduled to take place.

“I am confident this measured reopening is the best approach that will allow us to enjoy these entertainment venues again,” said Hutchinson in a statement on the lifted lockdown restrictions. “As we cautiously emerge from this difficult time, we will keep an eye on data for any evidence that we are moving too quickly.”

The concert industry in its entirety has struggled to adapt to the pandemic’s impact, but other developments have been made to satiate demand for the concert experience. Livestreamed shows have defined COVID-19 orthodoxy, while artists such as Marc Rebillet are experimenting with the novel concept of drive-in tours.

Many experts believe that the resurgence of the traditional concert experience is a distant possibility. Center for American Progress fellow Dr. Zeke Emanuel even went as far as to predict its absence until fall 2021.

This timetable is just one of many areas of uncertainty to prevail in modern times, but if McCready’s show turns out to be an effective proof of concept, it’s likely that the concert industry will have a fighting chance, after all.

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