Students question COVID safety as live music returns


“The Crowd in the Concert” by BockBilbo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Alyssa Fell, news correspondent

After almost two years, concerts are back in Boston with performances by artists like the Jonas Brothers, J. Cole and Phoebe Bridgers. Northeastern students share feelings of fear and excitement for what is to come. 

Choosing to attend a concert amid the pandemic is not taken lightly for many. With the threat of contracting COVID-19 and the social anxiety that stems from over a year of isolation, the crowded environment takes some adjusting.   

Despite this, the thrill of experiencing live music and the desire to support the music industry drives many to attend these concerts. Data collected by Predict HQ shows that in the later half of 2021, concerts are expected to have 53% fewer attendees compared to that of 2019. This correlates with the statistics which show that 57.7 million music tour tickets were sold in 2019, with only 13.4 million tickets being sold in 2020.   

“People have been itching to get back to concerts,” said Jess Slavin, a third-year environmental studies major. “They’re definitely packed, which is sort of jarring.”

Since Slavin works remotely, she has not experienced this year’s crowded Northeastern campus. Slavin said concerts have been the only location post-quarantine where she is able to witness these gatherings. 

“It’s weird, but it’s also so refreshing,” Slavin said. “We can’t be naive, COVID still is running rampant and people are still getting it regardless of whether they’re vaccinated or not,” Slavin said, explaining that she chooses to wear her mask at these events. Slavin thinks that concert goers need to establish their own boundaries prior to the event.  

Throughout the pandemic, artists have performed virtual concerts. For some students, these virtual concerts did not compare to the in-person experience.  

“The reason you go to see live music is to see someone performing live, and when it’s something that is on video, even though it’s not pre-recorded it still doesn’t feel the same,” said Belle McNamara, a third-year music industry and communications studies major.

Slavin and McNamara attended the Hella Mega Tour this summer with Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer at Fenway Park, an outdoor venue. 

“It was in that sweet spot of COVID where cases were down so I felt really safe going into it,” McNamara said. 

McNamara said she believes it is important to move forward with life, but in a safe manner. 

For Madison Williams, a fifth-year theater student, the Hella Mega Tour still felt like too much of a risk.   

“I had tickets, and I sold them,” Williams said. “I was just like, ‘I don’t think I could be around 37,000 unmasked people right now.’”    

Williams attended the Phoebe Bridgers concert this September at the Leader Bank Pavilion, an outdoor venue, explaining that there were vaccine requirements and mask mandates. These precautions, as well as the energy at the concert, allowed them to feel comfortable and present. 

They stressed the need to have increased safety precautions at concerts, noting that they believe a vaccine passport system should be in place in Massachusetts. Williams explained a system used at Together Records in Massachusetts, where they performed, where color-coordinated wristbands displayed one’s comfort level in terms of safety precautions, such as social distancing and mask wearing.  

“When it comes to large scale indoor concerts, really, we shouldn’t be putting people in a position where they have to choose between a ticket that they’ve been waiting for two years and spent hundreds of dollars on, and getting sick,” Williams said.   

Williams has 37,000 followers on TikTok where they post music-related content. Williams explained that the music community on TikTok was both supportive and critical of each other as a result of the ample time individuals had during quarantine. 

“We all are kind of working toward the same goal of being able to make music financially sustainable for everyone, especially during the pandemic, but also keep me safe,” Williams said.

Outdoor concerts have reduced the fear around the contraction of COVID-19 and provided a sense of security for those attending. With that in mind, individuals still need to account for their personal safety. 

“One thing that I’ve been seeing from concerts that I have planned to go to is that nearly all of them, you have to provide your proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test,” Slavin said. 

Slavin and Williams said they look forward to attending concerts that they deem safe in the future. For those in the same boat as Slavin and Williams, missing the taste of live music performances, Billboard published a list of concerts that were rescheduled as a result of the pandemic. 

“It was always one of those things that was like an escape mechanism for me pre-COVID,” Slavin said. “And I think that once that was taken away, it definitely showed me how much I took it for granted.”

Slavin, McNamara and Williams all share a common love for live music. 

“I’m just hoping that me and all my friends, whether it’s seeing live music or performing, can find that piece of ourselves again on stage,” McNamara said.