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US musicians, festivals now require concertgoers proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Aug 13, 2021 2:58 pm Updated Aug 16, 2021 10:03 pm

The live music industry is starting to hum with life, at least in some parts of the world like the US, as concerts and festivals are slowly reclaiming the lost time  the COVID-19 pandemic has taken from all of us the past year.

At the onset of the pandemic, many asked if going to concerts and festivals would be a thing of the past. Some tried to bring back the community atmosphere and the shared experience of concerts and festivals like staging a “space bubble” concert, or conducting a “test party” to take a look at how to gather safely during the pandemic.

With people being physically apart for over a year, just the thought of concertgoers in a packed stadium singing and dancing, reveling in reckless abandon while soaked in adrenaline-laced sweat could make one recoil in horror.

Today, musicians in the US are starting to hit the road once again but they are faced with the reality that the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much present, wreaking havoc in communities, especially with the more transmissible Delta variant. 

With this, a growing number of musicians, including Maroon 5, Bleachers, Foo Fighters, rock band Japanese Breakfast, and country singer Jason Isbell, are rewriting their tour’s health and safety policies to protect not only themselves but also their fans and their communities. 

Most of them chose to take this route due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the US, driven mostly by the Delta variant, and the challenge of getting more people vaccinated.

Maroon 5 kicked off their 2021 tour in Auburn, Washington on Aug. 10. The day after their first performance, the band released a statement that they will require additional protocols for their shows starting on Aug. 16, including presenting a proof of vaccination or a negative test result taken not more than 48 hours before the show.

The same will be required for the shows of songwriter and producer Jack Antonoff when his indie-pop act Bleachers goes on tour in September. In a tweet, Antonoff said he is working with the promoters and the venues to implement the new guidelines for his tour. 

“We are not messing around. Every show will be as safe as possible without any weirdo bullshit,” Antonoff wrote.

Country musician Jason Isbell also require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test for all his shows or he and his band will not play. One of his shows in Texas was cancelled after a venue was reportedly not willing to accept their health and safety guidelines. Some fans have also reportedly pushed back for having a vaccine requirement at his concerts.

“I’m all for freedom, but if you’re dead, you don’t have any freedoms at all,” Isbell told MSNBC.

Foo Fighters are among the growing list of musicians who are requiring concert attendees proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or negative test result before allowed entry to the venue. Screenshot from ticketmaster.com

Foo Fighters recently announced through Ticketmaster that for its three upcoming shows in Alaska this week, attendees are required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result within 48 hours of the event prior to entering the venue. Children under 12 years old or fans who have medical conditions that prevent them from getting vaccinated are also required to show proof of negative test.

The statement also says mask wearing is encouraged but not required.

In the festival circuit, organizers have updated their guidelines, usually aligning with local mandates that are guided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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The recently concluded Lollapalooza, held in Chicago, Illinois, required festival-goers proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter. Despite this protocol, some attendees have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. Almost 400,000 people from across the US attended the four-day festival, which worries doctors saying the festival may lead to an outbreak, especially with the threat of the Delta variant.

The four-day Bonnaroo music and arts festival in Tennessee in September will also require festival-goers COVID-19 vaccine or a negative test for those who are unvaccinated. With its headliners that include the Foo Fighters, Tame Impala, Lizzo, and Megan Thee Stallion, fans are expected to attend in droves. But among other things, the representatives of the festival says the safety of its patrons and staff is the No. 1 priority. Though the Bonnaroo organizers will allow unvaccinated individuals in the festival, they are requested to wear a face mask at all times while in the venue.

While many rejoice in the fact that the live music may be experienced once again, some criticize the move of these artists and festival organizers to push through with their events even though cases are up in many cities and counties in the US.

Stevie Nicks, Michael Bublé and Limp Bizkit were among those who cancelled their concerts or tours, some just for the month, and others for the rest of the year.

Though there are musicians like Eric Clapton who refuses to perform in venues that require vaccines for concertgoers, it looks like more musicians, festivals, and venues will be following the trend of requiring proof of vaccination on concerts as the threats of COVID-19 remain.