COVID-19 continues to shape the face of live music

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It was August when Sapling reached a respectful breaking point. Or more specifically, their wallets did.

After careful consideration, the Worcester group chose to file a show that would require its members to show proof of vaccination. in addition to negative COVID-19 tests.

It was not a political decision, nor by disagreement (on the contrary, as Sapling defends science). Instead, the band just realized that some performance requirements required a lot of extra time, effort, and money – things bands already tend to wear off.

For Sapling, those hassles and costs just weren’t worth it, even after a drought lasting over a year without live music.

“I realized that I am not excited enough about playing live shows to pass a test besides being already vaccinated to sing without a mask,” says bassist and singer Rainy Logan. “I’m glad people are careful, but I don’t care enough to go through this. We spend the band’s money on that, and the other option is to sing with a mask, which I personally just don’t do. I am not ignorant of revolutionary cases, but I personally am not ready for all of this at this time. ”

As the Delta Variant continues to keep conversations about COVID-19 moving, bands face tough decisions when planning live performances, or even deciding whether or not to maintain their current show commitments. For some artists, touring and indoor performances seem riskier than they did just a few months ago. The landscape for the rest of 2021 looks even more blurry than summer, as many groups emerge from the artistic haze of their forties.

Some Boston bands, like GA-20 and Squirrel Flower, continued their fall tours. Others, like Anjimile (now a resident of Durham, North Carolina) canceled their tour out of caution, giving up months of planning and income. The general consensus on booking shows this year is simply that there is is not a.

“You kind of assume that things are always going to get worse forever, you know?” Says Daniel Carswell of Boston’s punk band Rebuilder. Earlier this month, the group stormed the Sinclair stage with oldsoul and Choke Up, but not before the Cambridge Hall changed its admissions policy, requiring proof of vaccination or a COVID test -19 negative no more than 72 hours before. The new regulations boosted Rebuilder’s comfort level with indoor play, which had become shaky after the Delta variant began to spread across the country.

“Anything inside can be worrying, there’s no question about it,” Carswell says. “We think we’re putting on a show in one of the best venues there is. We know they, The Sinclair, take security protocols seriously and follow CDC guidelines. We feel good to answer the question. It’s a big room and I’m very sure there will be space to socially distance yourself… I think it’s the bare minimum to ask people to get vaccinated and wear masks.

For Boston singer-songwriter Maya Lucia, these two demands aren’t just a courtesy, they’re a necessity. Because Lucia and one of her band members are immunocompromised, Lucia has had to build – and modify – her current North American tour around locations or outdoor spaces with strict mask and vaccination protocols. She didn’t even start planning the tour until her entire accompanying group was vaccinated.

“Ideally, we would like to do a site visit entirely in the open air, but most cities do not have infrastructure built in this way,” says Lucia. “Overall, we feel good about the indoor performance as the venues have put mask warrants inside as well as negative proof of vaccination / COVID testing. We remain vigilant and work to make sure everyone is healthy – fans and bands included. “

On the road, his guard remains high. The entire group undergoes COVID-19 tests weekly (despite the cost) and remain masked where possible (despite the discomfort). Both are prices that she and her group are happy to pay for their safety.

Lucia adds, “It’s a tough call to make knowing that such health and safety measures can be so inextricably linked to privileges (the ability to socially distance oneself, to get tested regularly, to quarantine and leaving work etc) but right now these are the methods that we think will best keep everyone safe and that’s what we want to prioritize. “

Even with strong protocols in place in many venues across the country, making plans for fall and winter shows feels like a waiting game for many artists. Tiffany Sammy, creator of the Boston TIFFY project (pictured above), has performed with enthusiasm at places like O’Brien’s Pub, ONCE’s outdoor space in Boynton Yards and Nova Arts in Keene, New Hampshire, in September. Looking ahead, however, she is looking cautiously to see what will happen this fall as the city gradually reopens and welcomes thousands of potentially contagious students from around the world.

Touring, on the other hand, remains totally irrelevant: “It would be incredibly difficult with the fact that venues / bookers were (and still are) limited and stretched, catching up with rescheduled / canceled shows and everything in between,” he said. she declared. Remarks. “I didn’t want to put my hat on in the ring especially since everything could easily be undone again. In general, I consider it a possibility that these [performances] could be canceled if the delta worsens.

Aria Rad of Boston folk punk band Coffin Salesman echoes Sammy’s hesitant feelings for fall and has only made local plans, lest anything be canceled at the last minute.

“Originally, I kept the non-existent reservation plans for the second half of 2021, largely because I didn’t think the shows would come back in any capacity as quickly as they did. », He explains. “As more events have happened over the summer I have started to book for later in the year but trying to keep it sparse… I am excited for things planned for fall , but I’m trying to be realistic that these plans could completely change currency. COVID has been a reality for long enough now that if I have to put my brain in lockdown mode, I’m ready to do it. “

Sammy and Rad also cite Massachusetts’ high vaccination rates as a source of comfort for playing indoors. Massachusetts is currently the fifth most vaccinated state in the country, just behind New England neighbors Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island.

“I am cautiously optimistic that the vaccination and case rates are better in Massachusetts than in other places, but I am not naive enough to think that we are living in a bubble,” says Rad.

The only silver lining in this changing and often baffling reality is the sure performance that to do to arrive have been filled with more joy and catharsis than perhaps any in recent memory. The uncertainty of the moment forced people to really savor the shows that can happen, as they happen. For groups like Circus Trees, the difference is palpable.

The post-rock band from Marlborough say they feel closer to the community than ever before, as evidenced by their recent performances at the Jungle and Space Ballroom in Hamden, Connecticut. Tomorrow night, they’re playing with Caspian in a sold-out Sinclair.

“After these few concerts, we found the rhythm and we never felt more comfortable”, shares the group. “Obviously with the pandemic everything has been toned down a notch in the sense that people are still wearing masks and keeping a good distance just to be safe. But the community has never felt so strong in our opinion. We think the people who said they weren’t going to miss a show when the things opened up really stuck to their words and got it all. It’s a very ethereal feeling that reoccurs, we couldn’t be happier.

Ultimately, it all comes down to an individual’s comfort level, and this is the case not only for attending live musical events, but also for going out and moving anywhere there may be a crowd. .

“It’s a privilege to organize events, and in that, a responsibility to keep everyone safe,” Carswell concludes. “All of this is much more important than rock n ‘roll. We need to take care of each other and be as safe as possible. “

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