Across the country, the entertainment industry is gearing up for live music’s potential return this summer. Outdoor concerts and music festivals are scheduled and may start taking place as early as the end of April in places like Texas. As the industry struggles to free itself from the effects of COVID-19 and its restrictions, organizers and performers alike are trying to plan for their very new normal.

There’s a lot to miss about the traditional festival experience, and some of those things won’t survive the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, there may be some interesting new additions if you are lucky enough to attend a concert this summer, assuming in-person concerts take place.

The Environment

Many venues have had to shut down because of financial stress during the pandemic. Locally, U Street Music Hall and Eighteenth Street Lounge are among the fallen. So searching for in-person events post-pandemic will sadly bring more limited options, and the venues you once made great memories at may have disappeared.

[Review: Brockhampton gets retrospective on ‘ROADRUNNER’]

Also, outdoor venues are key for large gatherings. Obviously, this is weather and season-permitting, but — accompanied by masks and social distancing — it’s the safest option.

The ideal situation would be moving about semi-freely outside, and I’m hoping the bubbles like the ones lining the streets of Washington, D.C., and New York City are kept far, far away from outdoor concert venues. Though it could allow events to happen all year and prevent weather postponements, they’re a grim reminder of the days when we had to eat outside on city streets in below-freezing temperatures. That’s something I would go to a concert to forget about.

Honestly, the potential “new normal” of outdoor concerts as the main way to see your favorite artists is a huge win. Gone are the days of gasping for air while packed in a musty crowd on a tiny dance floor. You may still get stuck in crowds (someday), but having fresh air will make it less painful.


Reduced capacity limits will have to exist for as long as state and federal pandemic regulations are in place. Though unfortunate for organizers and venue owners who want to pack as many people as possible into a tiny space, having some breathing room won’t be a bad thing.

And capacity limits may also make coveted festival tickets even more exclusive. You used to be lucky if you set your timer perfectly to snag early bird tickets at the start of a 10 a.m. sale — you’re now even luckier when the available tickets are more limited.

Traditionally, you had the pleasure of waiting in lines for more than half the time you were at a festival, but this may not be the case anymore. Staggering arrival times and contactless ticketing would help manage crowds and relieve you of long wait times.

It is yet to be determined how we’ll maintain social distancing in those disastrous bathroom lines, though.

Pre-pandemic, planning your arrival to a stage perfectly was a great feeling. You made it past the lines and into the festival, and you find yourself in the front row, right behind the barricade. How exciting; you get to experience the coveted feeling of your insides getting squished against a metal railing by the force of thousands of inebriated strangers when the main act appears.

Sadly, that wonderful sensation will likely remain in our memories — at least for now. Performers will probably have to stay farther away from those in the front row than they used to, leaving little reason to rush to the front. Attendees also might have to sit to help enforce social distancing depending on the venue and act. 

I’m still figuring out how sad I am about never having to feel strangers’ sweat pressed against my body while they jump all over me.


It’s always been popular to wear face coverings, like bandanas, to certain festivals. What great foreshadowing.

Masks will most likely be a staple for quite awhile, and they’ll be especially necessary as people will be yelling song lyrics and screaming for their favorite artists at festivals.

Just like fanny packs and kandi, masks can become festival staples — and I think they’re destined to be everyone’s new favorite concert accessory. Masks have been styled to fit our outfits and individual fashion choices for 13 months now, but music lovers might just take them to the next level. Naturally, they will get more extravagant and personalized. Here’s to praying that styles like the pointless fishnet mask don’t become normalized.

[UMD alum and radio titan Peter Rosenberg on his new album and the state of radio today]

But honestly, the idea that venues will have to enforce mask-wearing at concerts is my worst nightmare. When bass and alcohol start coursing through someone’s system, a mask is easily the first thing to come off. Additional personnel, signs and even the performers may have to pitch in to help with enforcement.

Our well-being

There is a question of how high the demand for music festival and concert tickets will be following the pandemic. Many of us miss live music terribly, but this is also a time of immense economic turmoil. People have less disposable income, which will surely change the demand for something as expensive as concert tickets.

Plus, our emotional states are delicate. We haven’t been able to see our favorite artists live in what feels like forever, and we haven’t been able to feel the sense of community that comes with any live music event. Still, it’s unclear how ready people are to return. 

Even once people are vaccinated, they may still be hesitant to jump into huge crowds. Concerts bring a lot of strangers who are ready to socialize into one place, and that might remain scary for some time.