Performing During a Pandemic: Is it possible to safely attend concerts?

(Photo provided by Action Vance/Courtesy of

By Megan Gregoire
Boston University News Service

As concert venues started opening their doors once again, many across the United States saw it as the return to music as we know it. Local venues such as Brighton Music Hall, Paradise Rock Club, and House of Blues opened their doors to hardcore music fans with some requirements, such as a required vaccination card, a negative test within 72 hours, the use of masks during the performance. 

However, with the new Omicron variant on the rise, many music fans are wondering: is it possible to safely attend a show?

For Autumn Dawn, 24, of New Jersey, attending shows has not been an option at all since the beginning of the pandemic. Dawn, who can’t receive the vaccine due to a medical condition, says that even if venues are taking all precautions, it has been impossible for them to feel safe attending a show.

“Although the vaccine is effective, it does not prevent those who are vaccinated from catching or transmitting the virus, which puts me in a situation if somebody were COVID positive and did not get tested because their symptoms are too minimal for them to notice,” said Dawn.

Dawn, who freelances as a concert photographer, has seen first-hand how not attending concerts has impacted their mental health, creativity, and ability to work with some of their favorite local and larger bands. 

“It makes my ability to go to most shows very limited. I have to be mindful of attendance, size of the venue, and the amount of open air there is,” they said. 

Dawn has only been able to shoot one show during the pandemic back in November of this year. Traveling out to New York City for the show, Dawn was excited to finally have an opportunity to shoot, however, the show did not go as expected for them. 

“In the one experience I have had this year, I had to leave early due to the crowd getting bigger and bigger later on in the night,” Dawn said. 

Bigger venues, such as Boston University’s Agganis Arena, are continuing to follow the city of Boston’s mask mandate, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test. 

Colin Riley, executive director of media relations for Boston University, said in an email that the University does not have any current plans for changing its concert schedule due to the new variant or the rise in cases.

“We will continue to carefully monitor public health guidance and will adjust our protocols as necessary,” he said.

Outside of mainstream venues, local musicians and house show venues have taken a hit with a rise in cases and the discovery of the new variant. Tanner LaVallee, 22, helps operate The Tourist Trap, a local house show venue in Allston that runs performances for local musicians out of their basement.

 LaVallee, who also has his own band “The Vallee,” has seen two different perspectives of the effects of the pandemic — booking shows for his house as well as booking shows for his band. 

“Many shows are being bounced around between different venues as the people hosting these shows are less and less comfortable putting them on,” said LaVallee. “As an artist, a big hurdle I’ve had to wrestle with is last-minute cancellations without the opportunity to reschedule.”

Even with strict capacities being placed on house show venues, LaVallee said it is a struggle to feel safe booking shows as well as performing in them as well. The Tourist Trap, in addition to several other venues, has decided to cancel all shows for the remainder of the year. 

“It has really started to impact our local underground music scene, which has seen a bigger hit in cancellations than some of our neighboring venues like Brighton Music Hall or Paradise Rock Club,” he said. 

Harry Jenkins, co-founder of Afterlife Entertainment, an independent music label based in Boston, said that the fear of COVID-19 is a major factor in lower attendance in shows that he is booking.

“Even with the people who are vaccinated, COVID has induced a fear of large gatherings which still prevents potential audience members from attending,” he said. 

“Even for the events we have booked for the rest of 2021 and into 2022, the increasing variants leave anyone booking events fearful.”

Despite a more difficult time booking, however, Jenkins said that the pandemic has inspired artists to get creative in booking performances and finding new ways to reach audiences.

“I really could go on and on about all the difficulties the pandemic has added but at the end of the day we are lucky to be in a place where we can still be hearing live music,“ he said.

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